Louis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de Salamon.

Unpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 online

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is very natural besides, for he was writing his own adven-
tares. In addition to this, he always saw himself, while
writing them, in the midst of a sympathizing circle of
auditors, male and female: that he should dwell on his
own personality as much as possible was their eager

Perhaps even the illusion, I was going to say the mir-
age, common to lively imaginations, to talkers who talk
of themselves, to the authors of memoirs, has led him to
embellish a little here and there. This is a simple suppo-
sition of mine ; it occurred to me while reading these
pages ; I give it for what it is worth ; and, with this par-
enthesis, I come to my concluding observations.

When we speak of the clergy of the eighteenth cen-
tury, we always have in our minds two extreme types,
both represented in these Memoirs, the one by the heroic
cure of Saint-Jean en Greve, the other by that abbe of
the second book whom the author very correctly describes
as his lamentable compatriot.

Well, the Abbe de Salamon has nothing in common
with this poor scapegrace, but neither does he quite re-
semble the first. He represents a new type, which stu-
dents of the eighteenth century ought not to forget, — the
magistrate priest, the abbe who is at once a priest and a
man of the world.

He associates very little, or not at all, with his brother
clerics; he would rather draw up reports than preach
sermons; he takes more interest in the perplexities of
a legal investigation than in hearing confessions, and
is better acquainted with the customs of France than
with the Holy Scriptures. He frequents the company
of distinguished jurists and of persons noted for rank
or talent. Living in their midst, he adopts their tastes
and habits, secularizes himself, if I may venture to use
the term. This is easily seen in the Memoirs, but we
need not be scandalized at it.


For it is right to remark that all this concerns only the
outward seeming ; at bottom, in heart and soul, the inter-
nuncio remains, to use the expression of Saint Paul, the
model of the flock.

When he believes that he is about to be massacred in
the Abbaye, he makes his examination of conscience, and
says to God, to strengthen himself against the terrors of
his judgment: "You know that I have never spoken
against your holy religion," — a confidence characteristic
of the man and of his environment. The priest to-day
has not the duty nor even the opportunity of frequenting
the society of those who ridicule his beliefs. When he
appears, politeness itself produces a certain self-restraint.
But it was not so in the eighteenth century, and if the inter-
nuncio refused to enter every salon which took its tone from
Voltaire, he would have been constrained to live like a
hermit : and this was not at all to his taste. But, unlike
certain abbes who have become only too celebrated, he
kept silence, and protested by his attitude.

Such as he is, and as he artlessly paints himself, I like
him much for his beautiful warmth of soul, his devotion to
Pius VI. and to the Church, and his filial tenderness for
the poor woman of the people, Blanchet, his faithful old
housekeeper, who is the pearl of these Memoirs, although
they contain a good many others.



Relieved of his functions in 1801 by the arrival in
France of the Legate a latere^ Mgr. Caprara, the Abbe
de Salamon was immediately named administrator general
of the dioceses of Normandy. This province was then in
a state of great agitation. The ill feeling that existed in


all the rest of the country between the non-juring and con-
stitutional priests was there complicated by a great quaiTel
between the sees of Rouen and Seez. As the government,
which had not yet signed the Concordat, and the cardinal,
who had not yet been recognized, could not act officially,
the affair was intrusted to the Abbe de Salamon.^

The latter travelled through the dioceses of Normandy,
appointed grand vicars, and succeeded in restoring peace.
At least, such is the testimony he renders to himself in
the closing pages of his work. But it would seem that
he flatters himself a little, as the author of the "Memoirs
on the Ecclesiastical Affairs of France " affirms that he did
not obtain much success.

However this may be, he did not lose his time.

The Abbe de Salamon, as a lawyer, preserved a very
strong liking for documents. It is a characteristic of
which De Pradt speaks with much severity in his " His-
toire des Quatre Concordats," but it must be acknowledged
that the troubled times in which he lived rendered it very
valuable. It enabled the internuncio to send to Pius VI.,
on his demand, detailed biographies of all the constitu-
tional bishops. He also collected, as he tells us himself,^
information in Normandy on the non-juring and constitu-
tional priests of the different dioceses of this province,
thinking that some time or other it might be turned to
account. He was not mistaken. Fifteen years later, in

1 See " Memoires sur les Affaires Ecclesiastiques de la France," 1.
Paris, 1823.

2 " As for myself, I have always been obliged to live in Paris or in
its neighborhood, and / know eoeryhody. Any information your Ex-
cellency may require Avith respect to such or such a person I am ready
to supply. When I was Apostolic Administrator of Normandy, I
gathered correct information on the priests of the different dioceses,
and, in a very impartial manner, even on the intruded priests. And so
I was able to send true and correct biographies to Pius VI." (a collec-
tion we should be very glad to discover!) "of all the constitutional
bishops he wished to learn something about." Part of a letter quoted
by De Pradt.


fact, we see him place it at the disposal of Cardinal de

When his mission was finished, Mgr. de Salamon retired
for a long time into private life. Did he do so voluntarily?
I do not think so, and I believe that, in spite of his attach-
ment — which he is rather fond of parading — to the
ancient order of things, he would have gladly accepted
one of the sees erected by the Concordat, of which, for
that matter, his devotion to the Church rendered him
quite worthy. Two rather curious letters, exchanged
between him and Cardinal Gerdil, which I give at the
end of this volume, will be likely to influence the reader's
opinion upon this subject.

However, he had to content himself with the episcopal
consecration he received at Rome in 1804, as titular
Bishop of Orthozia in partihus infidelmm.

Still, there were writers who envied him even this
reward.^ Witness De Pradt, who, in the work already
cited, sneers at this honor '' as one of those favors of
which Rome is not sparing."

It will be admitted that this criticism is in rather bad
taste, levelled as it is at a man who twice risked his
head for the Church. De Pradt, who was successively
Bishop of Poitiers and Archbishop of Malines, never
did as much.

It was in connection with the Concordat of 1817 that
Mgr. de Pradt encountered Mgr. de Salamon, whom he
has so badly treated.

The latter, in fact, returned on the stage with the
Restoration. Being a decided reactionary, he was one

1 De Pradt, ibid.

2 Not only writers, but Napoleon himself. The Abbe de Salamon
had been nominated by Pius YI. proprio motu. The emperor com-
plained loudly, refused to acknowledge the bulls, and caused an
organic decree to be added to the Concordat, forbidding any French
ecclesiastic to be named bishop without the consent of the government.
See " Memoires sur les Affaires Ecclesiastiques de France," ii.


of those who regarded Napoleon as an usurper, the
empire as an interregnum, and all its acts, even the
most important, as null and void. Therefore, when he
was appointed by the king Auditor of the Rota at
Rome, in 1815, he did not feel the slightest hesitation
m going and taking possession of the post. There was,
however, one difficulty. The office had been already
filled for several years by Mgr. Isoard, a prelate of
spotless character. The result was that Mgr. de Sala-
mon found himself in a delicate and somewhat ridicu-
lous situation, the bitterness of which he felt deeply.
It is only thus that the violent passages in two singu-
lar letters, quoted by De Pradt, can be explained.^

These letters were sent to one of the secret negotiators
of the Concordat of 1817, Cardinal de Talleyrand-Peri-
gord, ex-Archbishop of Rouen, and subsequently Arch-
bishop of Paris. They show that their author felt as
little respect for the Concordat of 1801 as he did for the
nomination of Isoard. And, in fact, the two acts were
closely connected. The question, at bottom, was to de-
cide which party should triumph, the extremists or the
moderates, and whether the contracts made by the Court
of Rome with a sovereign who had reigned twelve years
over France were valid or not.

The wise Pius VII. judged that they were. The Con-
cordat of 1817 was only a renewal of that of 1801. Iso-
ard was maintained, and Mgr. de Salamon would have
remained an Auditor of the Rota in partihus as well as a
bishop, had not the king insisted that the Pope should
appoint him Bishop of Belley, one of the forty-eight new
sees lately erected.

But, for reasons I cannot discover, he never occupied

1 "The philosophes" says De Pradt, in "Les Quatre Concordats,"
"have never spoken worse of the Court of Rome." Then Mgr. de
Pradt read very little of the philosophes ! Moreover, INIgr. de Sala-
mon wrote ab irato, and in a confidential communication. All this
makes a difference between him and the philosophes.


this see, and had to wait until 1820, when he was nomi-
nated to the bishopric of Saint-Flour. After so many
agitations and checkered fortunes, he anchored in port
at last.



It cannot be said, nevertheless, that Mgr. de Salamon
was destined to enjoy the sweets of repose.

For a long time, Saint-Flour had been without a bishop.
Mgr. de Belmont had died during the quarrel of Napoleon
with Pius VII. ; his successor, Mgr. Joubert, was unable
to take possession of his see, and, in spite of the efficient
administration of a grand vicar such as M. de Roche-
brune, the diocese suffered in consequence.

Happily, the new pastor bore his sixty-two years lightly.
His portrait in the Episcopal Palace of Saint-Flour, taken
at this period, is a visible testimony to the fact.

The top of the head, entirely divested of hair, leads the
mind of the spectator back to the massacres of Septem-
ber ; for it was after, and in consequence of, that long
agony that it began to fall as he himself tells us. All
that is left are two long, white tufts, which adorn the
temples and set off the face agreeably.

But, apart from this, it is astonishing to see him again,
with head erect and firmly planted on the square shoulders,
a complexion glowing with animation and color, eyes
bright and clear, — in short, breathing in his whole person
a fire and activity that only need an opportunity for their

^ In the absence of his Lordship, Mgr. Baduel, Bishop of Saint-
Plonr, Mgr. Lamoureux and Canon Boyer, my friend, have kindly
allowed me to study this portrait. I transcribe here our common


You cannot take a step at Saint-Flour without meeting
some memorial of this fruitful episcopate.

Here, at the entrance of the town, you see the fine
monastery of the Visitation, which owed, in great part,
its erection to his encouragement and generosity, — a fact
recalled by his arms sculptured above the principal en-
trance ; there, not very far away — nothing is very far
away at Saint-Flour ! — the congregation of Notre Dame,
whose development he favored, and which, under his
episcopate, sent a swarm to found at Salers a boarding
academy, still in a flourishing condition. But the Petit
Seminaire and the Grand Seminaire were his works of
predilection, because they were at that time the most
necessary of all.

Saint-Flour had, in fact, like the other dioceses of
France, seen the vocations of the young nobles exhausted,
at least generally, on account of the suppression of eccle-
siastical benefices. Hence a sensible lowering both in
the number and in the intellectual level of the clergy, for
poor families, or families in moderately comfortable cir-
cumstances — and from them, almost alone, could the
clergy be recruited, now that the career was one of self-
sacrifice only — could not afford their children adequate
means of education and intellectual culture. The bishop
had a disheartening proof of this in the style, and even in
the orthography, of the letters he received.-^

Is there any need of adding that he keenly deplored a
deficiency which seriously impaired the prestige of the
clergy ?

" Vainly," said he, in one of his pastorals, " would you
possess a solid training in theology and ecclesiastical
subjects. Men do not judge priests by standards which
they are themselves incapable of appreciating. It is of

1 See the collection of his pastorals. I have been able to examine
them in the library of the Grand Seminaire, thanks to the courtesy
of the Lazarist Fathers.


the greatest importance that the people should regard the
priest as belonging to the learned class," — words as
good in themselves as they are worthy of repetition,
and which find their best commentary in the efforts of
sectaries in all ages to shut out the clergy from the
sources of human science. They explain the efforts and
sacrifices of Mgr. de Salamon in favor of the seminaries.
Any one wishing to know them in detail has only to run
over the collection of his pastorals. It is from it I have
gathered the little information on this subject I now lay
before the reader.

Let me confine myself to stating here that he succeeded
in winning the favor of Charles X. for the Maison de
Pleaux, already of some antiquity, prevailing on him to
create it a Petit Seminaire, with nine burses and eighty
half burses, gifts, alas! destined to be ephemeral;-^ that
he widened the curriculum by inscribing mathematics and
natural philosophy in it ; that he created examinations in
literature, rudimentary enough, for that matter, which
students had to stand before entering the Grand Semi-
naire, in presence of the bishop and grand vicars ; and that,
finally, he founded, with the assistance of a holy and ex-
cellent priest, the Abbe Tripier, an ecclesiastical boarding
academy at Saint-Flour.

This institution had a somewhat modest beginning : the
pupils attended the courses of the College Royal, to-day, I
believe, the College National. But when the law of 1850
brought us freedom of secondary teaching, it decided to
use its own wiiigs, and soon attained a degree of pros-
perity that does honor to the foresight of its founders. It
is to-day, in its full development, a worthy rival of its
sister in Pleaux, and giving to the diocese of Saint-Flour
distinguished men and virtuous priests.

As for the Grand Seminaire, Mgr. de Salamon restored
it to its ancient masters, the Lazarists, who had held pos-

1 I think there is nothing left of them at present.


session of it from 1676 up to the Revolution, when they
were banished. Then, to guarantee a fuller supply of
priests, he aided indigent students out of his own purse,
and left them in his will a hundred thousand francs,^ in
order to assure to them after his death, as he had done
during his life, food, clothing, and wood to warm them.
The rest of his property he bequeathed to the poor.

The good sower cast his seed on a fruitful soil. The
harvest was abundant, and he had the happiness of seeing
it with his own eyes. In his lenten pastoral of 1828,
which we may regard as his Nunc dimittis, he throws a
satisfied glance over all his diocesan works, and salutes
particularly the hundred and fifty pupils of his Grand
Seminau'e, " the joy," he says, " and crown of my epis-
copate." It was better than the reward of his generosity,
— it was the fruit of God's benediction on a father who
freely surrendered his children to Him.

No one can, in fact, read without a lively emotion his
pastoral instruction of the 1st of January, 1826, by which
he established in his diocese the work of the Propagation
of the Faith, founded at Lyons, in 1822.

After enumerating the diflSculties of the missions and
mentioning among other slight and familiar details that
" a bottle of wine for saying mass costs a hundred and
twenty francs, when it reaches Tong-King," he declares
that he will gladly welcome any young cleric who asks his
permission to go on the foreign mission, and orders his
pastoral instruction to be read twice a year in the Grand
Seminaire. Considering how much Saint-Flour suffered
from lack of candidates for the ministry, this was pushing
his confidence in Divine Providence to heroism. It seemed,
indeed, for a moment, as if Mgr. de Salamon had been

1 According to what M. Coston tells me, his family gave him
little comfort. It would seem that they attacked the Avill, and, to
avoid scandal, the authorities of the diocese consented to a com-


guilty of imprudence. In the year 1827, twenty-one of
his priests died. But this was a passing trial, and, in
balancing accounts, God was as generous as he.

Mgr. de Salamon died on the 11th of June, 1829. Thus
God spared him the grief of seeing another revolution,
and the final ruin of that dynasty he loved so well, in the
storm of 1830.

He was buried, by his express wish, as a pauper in the
common grave.

When a stop was put to interments in the garden of the
Visitation, then used as a burying ground, Mgr. de Pom-
pignac, one of his successors, but at that time canon, had
his remains exhumed.

They rest, it appears, in the present cemetery, in the
vault reserved for the members of the chapter. I say,
'' it appears," for this great benefactor of Saint-Flour has
not even a tomb, not even a cross, upon which his name
might be read.

His humble wish has been faithfully obeyed!

There is, however, one house that desired Mgr. de
Salamon to have something more than a place in the
memory of grateful hearts. Need I mention that it is his
house of predilection, his Grand Seminaire ?

Over the entrance to the chapel and class-room are two
marble slabs, on which are engraved these words, — words
expressive and delicate in their sobriety : —

A LA m:^moire




D^cdde Le 11 Juin, 1829.

Par La Reconnaissance du Grand Seminaire,

Envers Son lUustre et Ensigne Bienfaiteur.


Such is the man and such the prelate whose Memoirs I
present to the public. I have, as the nature of things
sometimes required, dressed them up a little. But I do
not care to say any more ; there are secrets between them
and me which would interest nobody.

I wish only to say that I have removed to the two
extremities, the Introduction and the Appendix, all that
seemed to wear an appearance of erudition.

In this way, I have succeeded in rendering the cur-
rent of the narrative limpid and easy. The reader will
sail down it without effort. He will be captivated by the
charm of aU the amiable faces he sees reflected in it,
one after another,^ and will become the better for see-
ing; and, doubtless, Mgr. de Salamon, looking down from
his heavenly home, will pardon me for having published
his Memoirs.^

Paris, the 14th of May, 1890.

1 It reflects here and there some ugly physiognomies also; but
that is nothing in comparison with the Blauchets, the Dellebarts,
the Colins, with Mile. Grandin, the Cure of Saint-Jean en Greve,
Richard, etc. In short, these Memoirs show us human nature at its
best, and this is not so common at the present time.

2 I beg to offer my sincere thanks to all who have kindly aided
me ; but my thanks are especially due to my two colleagues, MM.
Lamarche and Daix. The latter has afforded me the help of his
ripe experience for the most thankless and arid part of the work.



Lasting from two o'clock in the afternoon of Sunday, the
2d of September, 1792, until eight in the morning of
Monday, the 3d of the same month, in the garden of the
Abbaye of Saint-Germain des Pres.

Infandum^ regina, Jubes renovare ddlorem.

Cruel to be told, great queen, is the sorrow you bid me revive.

Aenkas to Dido— Virgil, Aendd^ iL 3.




After nineteen years of misery and distress, —
years during which I have suffered every kind of ill
fortune, and been exposed to every kind of perse-
cution, — I bow with submission to your expressed
desire, madame, and I promise to recount, for your
own eyes, one of the most terrible scenes in the Revo-
lution, — that scene which preceded and foreboded
another more tragic still, when a funeral pall was
stretched over France, and consternation took hold
of all Europe.^

You wish me to write the lamentable story of the
September massacres, at which I was present, having
been dragged to the field of slaughter as the repre-
sentative of the Pope, and where I witnessed the
murder of seventy of my unhappy companions, escap-
ing myself only by the visible grace of that Divine
Providence which twice rescued me from the scaffold

Yes, madame, you shall be obeyed. Such amia-
bility and virtue as yours have a compelling power,
and I do now what I refused to do when compliance

1 The execution of Louis XVL


would have relieved my own dire distress.^ Do not,
however, expect from me a flowery and brilliant
style. I shall write all the details of the horrible
drama I can remember, with simplicity, without orna-
ment, and, perhaps, without connection.

My heart is still too much agitated whenever I re-
call this hideous massacre, and my mind is too much
enfeebled by years and anxieties to permit me to
hope that there may be much order and clearness in
this narrative.

^ The Abbe Sicard, instructor of the deaf and dumb, frequently
solicited me to give him my memoirs, and he even sent a bookseller to
me with an offer of three thousand francs for them, at a time, too,
when I actually was in want of food. {Note hy the author.)





The Abbe de Salamon is named Internuncio. — Letters from
Pius VI. and Cardinal Zelada. — The Edict in favor of
the Protestants. — The Internuncio before Louis XVI. —
His Arrest. — Madame Blanchet. — Marat and his Medi-

I WAS born a subject of Pius VI., of holy memory,
and the favors I received from him were of a nature
to excite the strongest feelings of devotion to his
person. It was not surprising, therefore, that, when
Dugnani, his nuncio at the French court, frightened
out of his wits by having the bleeding head of a
life-guard flung into his carriage, abandoned the
capital and fled to the baths of Aix, in Savoy, his
Holiness should wish to appoint me in his place, with
the title of internuncio to Louis XVI., then residing
at the Tuileries. I was informed of the intentions of


the Sovereign Pontiff by Cardinal Zelacia, liis Secre-
tary of State.

Alarmed at the idea of undertaking such a mission,
and having a secret presentiment of the dangers to
which I was likely to be exposed, I refused the
honor, but offered to act as adviser to Quarantotti,
who remained at Paris after the flight of the nuncio.
He was secretary of the papal embassy, or, to give
him his real title, auditor of the nunciature. But
Pius VI., a great Pope if ever there was one, was
fond of having his own way, and was not satisfied
with Quarantotti. He ordered him to quit the capi-
tal at once, after sending the archives of the nuncia-
ture to my residence. The Pope informed me, by
his Secretary of State, that he declined to accept my
excuses. To cut short all protests on my part, he
deigned to give me my orders under his own hand.
They were contained in a long letter of six folio
sheets with gilt edges. The letter had this pecu-
liarity, — that it was written in three languages. It
began in French with " mon clier ahhe^^'' was continued
in Italian, and ended with the words, '' Fontificahts
nostri anno decimo septimo^''^ and the signature, " Pius

The letter was of the most affecting nature. His

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