«Proud as demons»: the rebellious nuns of Port-Royal
Keywords:Port-Royal, cloistered nuns, obedience, monastic veil, Angélique Arnauld, Angélique de Saint-Jean, Jacqueline Pascal
The text starts from the question posed by the nuns of Port-Royal: can the monastic condition ignore the voice of conscience? The dramatic results triggered by the questions had their roots in a book published in 1640: Augustinus by Cornelis Jansen who proposed uncompromising religiosity by appealing to the thought of the holy bishop. That book created around itself a spiritual movement that marked the seventeenth century with a brand of diversity and opposition to the ruling power, political and religious. But perhaps Jansenism would never have been such an attractive ethical reference without Port-Royal, which the king wanted to destroy precisely to disperse the movement.
The Cistercian abbey, however, was first of all a community of women consecrated to prayer and yet, the extent of the theological controversies of which it became the center and the vast literary production that surrounded it, ended up eclipsing that primacy of the conversation with God that was the highest ambition of the religious group. On the other hand, it was difficult for a group of austere nuns who refused blind obedience not to cause scandal, in seventeenth-century France and beyond. However, the destruction of the abbey did not manage to silence the voices of its inhabitants and their behavior still challenges us.
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