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Monachisme féminin au pays de Liège à la fin du XVIIe siècle : une vie sub clausura perpetua ?

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  • Marie-Elisabeth Henneau

Abstract

[fre] Lorsque le prince-évêque de Liège Jean-Louis d'Elderen publie son édit en faveur du rétablissement d'une clôture stricte dans les monastères de femmes (1690), l'émotion est grande chez les cisterciennes, toujours installées dans les campagnes de son diocèse. Au cours des deux décennies suivantes, les moniales remuent ciel et terre pour faire entendre leur propre conception de la clôture, grâce aux interventions efficaces de divers réseaux, où relations familiales se conjuguent à l'habileté des canonistes pour incliner l'autorité épiscopale à se rendre à leurs arguments. Au même moment, d'autres religieuses proclament avec ferveur leur attachement à une stricte clôture, en dépit d'événements douloureux qui les contraignent parfois à quitter le cloître pour affronter le monde. La clôture la plus intransigeante y est revendiquée par les intéressées comme voie de salut et rempart protecteur de leur jardin clos. La confrontation de deux discours féminins contemporains, eux-mêmes mis en regard des avis souvent divergents des autorités masculines, révèle l'intensité des débats au sujet d'un article de discipline, présenté par les uns comme condition sine qua non du bon fonctionnement d'un couvent de femmes et de sa réputation aux yeux du monde, et ressenti par d'autres comme composante d'une règle monastique, certes utile, mais susceptible d'aménagements, en fonction des circonstances et des besoins individuels. [eng] When the Prince-Bishop of Liège, Jean-Louis d'Elderen, published his edict (1690) supporting the re-establishment of strict enclosure in womens monasteries, feelings ran high amongst the Cistercians sisters who were still living in the countryside surrounding the diocese. During the course of the following two decades, the cloistered nuns went to great lengths to make their own idea of enclosure heard, thanks to the effective intervention of various networks where familial relations and the persuasive efforts of canonists combined to persuade the Episcopal authorities to come round to their way of thinking. At the same time, other religious women fervently announced their attachment to a strict enclosure, in spite of certain unfortunate incidents which sometimes obliged them to leave the cloister and brave the outside world. The most uncompromising type of enclosure was therefore demanded by these women as a means of security and as a protective wall around their enclosed garden. The clash of two contemporary feminine discourses, both of them often considered to contradict those of masculine authorities, reveals the force of the debates around the topic of discipline, presented by some as a condition sine qua non of the good operation of a convent and of its reputation in the eyes of the rest of the world, and accepted by others as a component of monastic rule, undoubtedly useful, but also liable to revision according to circumstances and individual needs.

Suggested Citation

  • Marie-Elisabeth Henneau, 2005. "Monachisme féminin au pays de Liège à la fin du XVIIe siècle : une vie sub clausura perpetua ?," Histoire, économie & société, Programme National Persée, vol. 24(3), pages 387-398.
  • Handle: RePEc:prs:hiseco:hes_0752-5702_2005_num_24_3_2557 Note: DOI:10.3406/hes.2005.2557
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