» From the Editor: "Hitting The Wall"
» “Lead us with Prayer, With Love, With Hope!”
» Saint Therese and the Russian College in Rome
» Catholic Press Association Awards
» Father Patrick on BBC Television
» Letter to the Editor: Collecting Stories
» Brother Rice Grad Becomes New JCA Principal
» Please Meet...Jeffery Smialek, O.Carm.
» Carmelites Serving the Byzantine Catholic Church
» “What’s the Difference Between a Tourist and a Pilgrim?”
» The “Resurrection” of Saint Thomas
» Carmelites Return (Ever So Briefly) to Avignon
» Conforming to Christ —
Brothers Enrique and Jeffery Make Their Solemn Profession
» Mary, the Prophet and the Intra-Carmelite Formation Program
» Q and A with Craig Morrison
» An Afternoon Concert
» “Listening in High-Fidelity”
» Obituaries
» “We live in Simplicity...
And in a silence full of God.”
» Carmelecta

Carmelites Return (Ever So Briefly) to Avignon

by Father Patrick McMahon,

Recently Father Patrick McMahon, O.Carm., and Father Simon Nolan, O.Carm., visited the Church of Saint Symphorien in Avignon in France. Father Patrick is a member of the North American Province (PCM) and is the director of the Institutum Carmelitanum in Rome. Father Simon is a Carmelite from the Irish Province who is currently working on his doctorate in philosophy in Rome. They were in Avignon doing research on the Carmelite Prior General Gerard of Bologna.

Father Patrick and Father Simon celebrate Mass at Saint Symphorien

The topic of Father Simon’s thesis is Gerard of Bologna who was Prior General of the Carmelites from 1297 until his death in 1317. He was the first Carmelite to receive a doctorate degree from the University of Paris. When the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon in 1308, Gerard and the curia of the Carmelites also had to move there. Gerard was a trusted papal advisor and served on papal commissions for several important cases including the suppression of the Templars and the heresy trial of Marguerite Porete. Neither of those cases are things that the Carmelites should be proud of, by the way.

The Carmelites had been in Avignon since 1267 and the church became the Generalate during the time of the Avignon papacy (1308-77) and then of the Avignon generals during the Great Schism (1378-1415). The Carmelites remained there until the French Revolution suppressed all religious orders.

While the other mendicant churches were destroyed, the Carmelite church survived because it was the headquarters of the Jacobins (the radical party) during the French Revolution—that is, of course, after they threw the Carmelites out. Today it serves as a parish church.

In 1805 the official name of the church was changed to Saint Symphorien. During the Revolution the original Church of Saint Symphorien, neighboring the Carmelite Church, was destroyed. After the Revolution that name and records were transferred to the Carmelite Church. But it is still commonly known by its earlier appellation, l’eglise des Carmes (the Carmelite Church).