The Benedictine Library of Saint-Mihiel is a place with a lot of stories and memories and contains a rare heritage that must be transmitted to futures generations
The first books gathered by Benedictine monks were obviously manuscripts, as the abbey's origins date back to the Caroligian Era. As they mostly fulfill their liturgical needs, the monks' first "bookstore" was located in the outbuildings of the abbey. Later on, when the volumes were too many, they were placed successively in different rooms as the collected works extended. The rebuilding and the extension of the library occurred during Dom Hennezon's abbacy. It was moved between 1688 and 1689 in a now-disappeared wing. It was during this period that the most important input took place in the history of the library, which was Cardinal de Retz's book collection, bought by Dom Hennezon in 1679.
The current library was built from 1768 to 1775.
The first room includes the archives and the second room includes the books. The first squared room presents a lavishly decorated ceiling, with symbols of the four corners of the world, the four elements and the four seasons. The second room is 50 m long, 8 m wide and 5 m high under the ceiling. The building and its collections were not destroyed during the French Revolution as the former was used by the Nation as a deposit location for archives and books from libraries of both religious houses and houses of rich families who left the Saint-Mihiel district.
Those books do not only talk about religious topics.
The cultivated reputation of the abbey and Benedictine monks of Saint-Mihiel was proved by the study of their library's composition, especially during the 17th century. You can find the best authors from the Antiquity, the Renaissance period and from the 17th century as well, with topics like law, philosophy, literature, botany, geography, history, zoology, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, agriculture, architecture, nusmis- matics, etc...
The library has survived wars, revolutions and book-lovers for over thousand years. It is the touching testimony of the spiritual, intellectual and material history of a religious community who gathered it up and used it throughout ten decades.
(Source : Nicole Cazin, Brigitte Vast)
The Saint-Athanasius manuscript
Dating back to the pre-Carolingian period, the Saint-Athanasius manuscript contains a collection of theological treaties against Arianism.On the first page of this volume, there was a bookplate, along with an anathema titled "Liber sancti Michaelis. Si quis eum abstulerit a monatserio almi Michaelis anathema sit", which dates back to the 12th century, but are now missing.
8th - 9th centuries
This extremely beautiful choral book has a decoration that consists of a very large number of ornated initial letters. Some of them are golden on a half-blue and half red background, some others have coloured flowers on a burnished gold background and a few of them in Gothic script capitals with grotesque figures. The initial letters that initiates the religious service are finely decorated with a pattern of flower laces, fruits and colored insects, which are embellished with gold. These letters can fill the whole margin or the whole corner of the page and they do add their considerable charm to the volume.
15th - 16th centuries
Le Voyage itinéraire et transmarin de la sainte cité de Jérusalem
These two books are written by Dom Loupvent himself and are two successive versions of his journey's tale in Jerusalem in 1531.
Watch video with Dom Loupvent during his journey (Video in French)
Also find Dom Loupvent in a book released by the General Council of the departement of Meuse and entitled "Le voyage d'un lorrain en Terre Sainte au XVIe siècle". This book is a transcript of Dom Loupvent's first manuscript on his journey.
(Book in French)