NICOLAS MARY DESFONTAINES by way of JEAN BARATGIN 1759 ORIGINAL HANDWRITTEN MANUSCRIPT FRENCH CATHOLIC RELIC: THE TRAGEDY OF SAINT ALEXIS [SAINT ALEXIS TRAGEDIE or L'ILLUSTRE OLYMPIE]: "Tragédie copiée par moy Jean Baratgin habitant du lieu de Bourisp le 24 May mil Sept Cent cinquante neuf 1759"
BOURISP FRANCE PYRENEES 1759 Manuscript Good Autograph
On offer is a super relic of French Catholic devotion being a manuscript book of the famed story "Saint Alexis" or "L'illustre Olympie" by Nicolas Mary Desfontaines [b. circa 1610 in Rouen, d. 4 February 1652 in Angers; actor, playwright and novelist and noted French poet [see BIO NOTES]. Over 80 pages handwritten by a young Pyrenees student in very nice, steady, calligraphic hand and as stated on the title page: "Tragédie copiée par moy Jean Baratgin habitant du lieu de Bourisp le 24 May mil Sept Cent cinquante neuf 1759". A separate title page at the rear identifies the Teacher, M. Jure and the Ecole Bourisp. One online source provides: "The best known of the early Old French saints' lives is the Vie de Saint Alexis, the life of Saint Alexis, a translation/rewriting of a Latin legend. Saint Alexis fled from his family's home in Rome on his wedding night and dwelled as a hermit in Syria until a mystical voice began telling people of his holiness. In order to avoid the earthly honor that came with such fame, he left Syria and was driven back to Rome, where he lived as a beggar at his family's house, unrecognized by all until his death. He was only identified later when the pope read his name in a letter held in the dead saint's hand. Although the saint left his family in order to devote his life more fully to God, the poem makes clear that his father, mother, and wife are saved by the Alexis' intercession and join him in Paradise. The earliest and best surviving text is in St. Albans Psalter, written probably at St Albans, England, in the second or third decade of the twelfth century. Saint Alexius or Alexis of Rome was an Eastern saint whose veneration was later transplanted to Rome, a process facilitated by the fact that, according to the earlier Syriac legend that a "Man of God" of Edessa, Mesopotamia who during the episcopate of Bishop Rabula (412-435) lived by begging and shared the alms he received with other poor people was, after his death there, found to be a native of Rome. The Greek version of his legend made Alexius the only son of Euphemianus, a wealthy Christian Roman of the senatorial class. Alexius fled his arranged marriage to follow his holy vocation. Disguised as a beggar, he lived near Edessa in Syria, accepting alms even from his own household slaves, who had been sent to look for him but did not recognize him, until a miraculous vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary singled him out as a "Man of God." Fleeing the resultant notoriety, he returned to Rome, so changed that his parents did not recognize him, but as good Christians took him in and sheltered him for seventeen years, which he spent in a dark cubbyhole beneath the stairs, praying and teaching catechism to children. After his death, his family found writings on his body which told them who he was and how he had lived his life of penance from the day of his wedding, for the love of God. St Alexius' cult developed in Syria and spread throughout the Eastern Roman Empire by the 9th century. Only from the end of the 10th century did his name begin to appear in any liturgical books in the West. Since before the eighth century, there was on the Aventine in Rome a church that was dedicated to St Boniface. In 972 Pope Benedict VII transferred this almost abandoned church to the exiled Greek metropolitan, Sergius of Damascus. The latter erected beside the church a monastery for Greek and Latin monks, soon made famous for the austere life of its inmates. To the name of St Boniface was now added that of St Alexius as titular saint of the church and monastery known as Santi Bonifacio e Alessio. It is evidently Sergius and his monks who brought to Rome the veneration of St Alexius. The Eastern saint, according to his legend a native of Rome, was soon very popular with the folk of that city, and this church, being associated with the legend, was considered to be built on the site of the home that Alexius returned to from Edessa. St Alexius is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology under 17 July in the following terms: "At Rome, in a church on the Aventine Hill, a man of God is celebrated under the name of Alexius, who, as reported by tradition, abandoned his wealthy home, for the sake of becoming poor and to beg for alms unrecognized." While the Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize St Alexius as a saint, his feast was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969, which lists the saints to be celebrated everywhere at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Rite. The reason given was the legendary character of the written life of the saint. The Catholic Encyclopedia article regarding St. Alexius remarked: "Perhaps the only basis for the story is the fact that a certain pious ascetic at Edessa lived the life of a beggar and was later venerated as a saint." The Tridentine Calendar gave his feast day the rank of "Simple" but by 1862 it had become a "Semidouble" and, in Rome itself, a "Double". It was reduced again to the rank of "Simple" in 1955 and in 1962 became a "Commemoration". According to the rules in the present-day Roman Missal, the saint may now be celebrated everywhere on his feast day with a "Memorial", unless in some locality an obligatory celebration is assigned to that day. The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates St Alexius on 17 March. Five Byzantine Emperors, four Emperors of Trebizond and numerous other eastern European and Russian personalities have borne his name. The tale of St Alexius has parallels with that of The Prodigal Son, as told in the biblical Book of Luke. As it appears in Legenda aurea (later retold in the Gesta Romanorum) it is almost identical with a tale told of the Tathagata Buddha in the famous Lotus Sutra. Dimensions : 24 cm X 19 cm. 81 hand numbered pages. Front cover torn away, back cover generally soiled and has some writings as if used as a blotter. Interior G+.