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Surviving Documents from Foigny

The Manuscripts

Relatively few manuscripts have survived from what once must have been a large monastic library, considering the size and importance of the abbey. Unfortunately, few have survived or have been identified.

Paris BN Lat 9376

Consisting of 12 folios, BN Lat 9376 is a fragment of a larger composite collection. It contains a detailed family tree of the Roucy family and is particularly concerned with the abbey's founder, Barthélemy de Jur. 

Laon 175

The oldest surviving Foigny manuscript, Laon 175 contains an early twelfth century copy of Cassian's Institutes and Tract on the eight principle vices. It is rubricated, consists of 13 sheepskin quires in a smaller format, lined in leadpoint. It contains multiple versals which are of a typical early Cistercian minimalist aesthetic.

Paris BN Lat 17582

A quarto volume containing Cassiodorus' Three-part History, copied between 1150-1160, similar in style, script and ornamentation to Laon 175. 

Paris BN Lat 2413

A late twelfth century copy of Haimo of Auxerre's On the Apocalypse. As with the previous two manuscripts, it adheres strictly to the minimalist Cistercian ideal, although the initials are highly detailed, and show early signs of thirteenth century innovations.

Laon 9

This volume bears a relatively late ex libris, attributing the book to Foisniaco rather than the traditional Latin orthography Fusniaco, showing the shift towards a more modern French pronunciation of the toponym. It contains glossed texts of Leviticus and Deuteronomy using the standard early three-column form of the Glossa ordinaria. The Glossa itself utilizes the usual patristic sources, with the addition of Gilbert the Universal (d.1134). The versals of the text are slightly more ornate than the manuscripts mentioned above, and there are a vew minor illuminations or graffitis in the margins, which S. Martinet has attributed to Cistercian preoccupation with crusade. The final folia of the book are written in a fifteenth century hand, and bears the autograph of a monk named Cordelle.

Reims 82

Reims 82 is a composite of various works dating from the mid-twelfth century. It contains two commentaries on the Pauline epistles by St. Jerome and St. Augustine, and a treatment On Mary by St. Ignatius of Antioch. It is written in two or three hands. While still avoiding gold, it shows a moderate degree of decoration, mirroring those used at Clairvaux and Vauclair. 

Paris BN Lat 18373

A cartulary from the twelfth century. It is available in digital fascimile online from the Biblothèque nationale.

Reims 1563

A cartulary from the early thirteenth century.

Paris BN Lat 18374

A cartulary which ends ca. 1300, with some later editions from the end of the fourteenth century and a double plage inserted from 1563. It has been published in a partially edited and summarized form as: Edouard de Barthélemy, ed. Analyse du cartulaire de l’Abbaye de Foigny. Bulletin de la Société archéologique de Vervins. Vervins: Impr. du Journal de Vervins, 1879.

Laon 331

Dating to the early to mid-thirteenth century, Laon 331 contains Conrad of Eberbach's Exordium Magnum. Its ex libris is printed, rather than handwritten, a fact which points towards Foigny possessing a fine library indeed in its later years.

Paris BN Lat 15177

Lat 15177 is the crown jewl of the manuscripts attributed to Foigny, a great display Bible in four volumes. The text is written in two columns in an almost perfectly regular hand with multicolored floral decorations. It seems to have survived the predations of the Revolution relatively unscathed chiefly because it was given to Cardinal Richelieu in the seventeenth century, possibly as a way of currying favor with the notorious bibliophile. 

Brussels BR IV 358

A Cistercian diurnal from ca. 1280

Troyes BM I.770

A fourteenth century copy of Giles of Rome's commentary on Aristotle's De generatione animalium.

Vatican Vat Lat 619

A twelfth century copy of Gregory the Great's Epistles

The Historia fusniacensis coenobii

Written in the 1660s by John de Lancy, the prior of Foigny, the Latin Historia fusniacensis coenobii (History of the Monastery of Foigny) constitutes our only real source for the history of the foundation. It exists in two editions, one from Beaufontaine printed in 1670 and the other from Laon, printed by A. Rennesson in 1671, currently in the possession of the Jesuit library at Les Fontaines. The later 1671 printing is by far the superior, with the text less compacted and with fewer abbreviations.

The Historia itself is a straightforward recounting of people and events from the monastery's founding up to the time of its composition, concerned with the various abbots and their reigns, momentus events, and those monks who were venerated as local saints. De Lancy's sources for this history are varied and unclear; he obviously pulled from institutional knowledge, unknown written records, and various inscriptions around the abbey, such as those on tombs. Due to the destruction of the abbey ca. 1800, it is impossible to verify much of de Lancy's work, the only later account being of the opening of Barthélemy de Jur's tomb in 1793.

The Historia thus constitutes an invaluable yet frustrating work. It offers glimpses into the history of a foundation of great importance to the region around Laon in the high Middle Ages, but it only does so through a seventeenth century lens, remaining silent on many issues modern historians might wish to understand.

The Sermon Collection

Appended to both the 1670 and 1671 printings of the Historia fusniacensis coenobii is a collection of Latin sermons. The 1670 printing contains 39 sermons of approximately 2500 words in length, each attributed to a specific monk of Foigny who preached it, 22 in total. The 29th sermon, by Garnier of Reims on Exodus 24:18, has been duplicated with approximately an additional page of text as the 38th sermon. The 1671 printing reproduces the 39 sermons of the 1670 edition and adds ten more by four additional named and three anonymous monks. The sermons are slightly reordered, with sermon 40 of the 1671 edition appearing as sermon 39 of the 1670, and 39 of the 1670 printing appearing as 41 in the 1671. In addition, the 1671 contains a series of shorter sermons, approximately 500 words each, for the missal and gospel readings for every day of the four week Lenten cycle. 

According to de Lancy, the sermons themselves come from an old manuscript he found in the monastery's library. The manuscript contained many different hands, some of which de Lancy admits that he could not read and thus did not copy. Unfortunately, the original manuscript has since been lost, so de Lancy's assertions as to provenance and content cannot be confirmed.

However, there is substantial reason to believe de Lancy's dating of the collection to the thirteenth century is accurate. The term collatio, used both in de Lancy's title and within the sermons themselves, is a term which only enters the monastic vocabulary in the the early thirteenth century. Moreover, all of the authors referenced within the collection date from no later than the middle of that period, and the troubles which affected the abbey after 1300 would certainly have made the production of the collection, a display of remarkable intellectual achievement, incredibly difficult.

I believe it is possible to refine the dating of some of the sermons even further. The 49 longer sermons were all almost certainly preached in chapter, based on length and obvious signs of orality, with little evidence of redaction or editing. Given de Lancy's description of the manuscript, and the lack of apparent order in his reproduction of the sermons, it seems likely that the order of the sermons is temporal, particularly well-recieved sermons written down at the request of the community.

The only sermon author which is in any way identifiable to a historical figure is Simon of Anglia, who appears eight times in the collection. No other author appears more than three times. It is therefore likely that this Simon is Foigny's abbot Simon, who ruled from 1218 to 1224, and thus all the longer sermons before number 33 in the collection can be assumed to be written from ca. 1200 to 1224, an assumption supported by the fact that none of the sermons before number 34 contain references to an author of the thirteenth century.

A list of sermon authors and pericopes can be found in the appendix of this site.

Unlocated Attested Manuscripts

These sources have been attested in other, later works, but the manuscripts themselves have disappeared over the years. Given the dates of the witnesses, this disappearance is probably primarily due to the chaos of the French Revolution.

  • Peter Chrysologus' Homilies from 1252, attested in C. Oudin, Commentarii de scriptoribus Ecclesiae antiquis1(1722).
  • A tract on the correction of Cistercian chant by Guy de Cherlieu, reproduced and attested in PL 182.1117-1120
  • Seven letters of Phillip de St. Ouen l'Aumône, used by B. Tissier, Bibliotheca patrum Cisterciensum 3(1660), 237-252.
  • A collection of sermons by the monks of Foigny (see above).
The History of Foigny
Surviving Documents from Foigny