During the French Revolution, Brother Solomon Le Clercq, FSC, was martyred on September 2, 1792. He was the first Brother of the Christian Schools to be martyred and the first to be beatified.
The Carmelite Abbey has become infamous because of the activities associated with the French Revolution which also involved Blessed Brother Solomon.
De La Salle’s Retreat
De La Salle withdrew to this convent of discalced Carmelites on Rue Vaugirard after the troubles with the town’s teachers. After two weeks of prayer and meditation, he returned to the St. Yon novitiate in Rouen, which he had founded the year before.
A major part of this convent is now the Catholic Institute of Paris. Frederick Ozanam, Founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society who died at age 40, is buried here. In the chapel to the left of the sanctuary is a statue of Our Lady designed by Bernini and completed by one of his students. It was removed during the French Revolution and returned in the 1930’s. A plaque commemorating all those put to death here is in the back right side of the second chapel. Brother Solomon is mentioned by name at the right of the altar.
During the French Revolution
During a particularly intense period of the French Revolution, the local priests and religious were herded into the church. Later, they were to be conducted into the sacristy (used as a dining area during the revolution) and down into the corridor. At a table, within earshot of the death throes of their colleagues who had preceded them, they were asked if they had taken the Oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. If they had not and were not prepared to do so, they proceeded down the corridor and met their fate at the steps which lead outside. After the event, it makes the words of Br. Solomon’s last letter very prophetic. He wrote them to his sister, Marie-Barbe, on the Feast of the Assumption two days before his imprisonment:
“I wish you a joyful feast. I pray that you may spend it in good health with your dear family, and in peace and quiet, so rare in our day. May our perfect submission to the will of God satisfy for every other consolation. Let us suffer all it may please him to permit, and let us remain faithful to him.”
Brother Escaped Slaughter
There was another Brother with Brother Solomon who hid among the dead, escaped, and acted as a witness. About 160 priests and religious were murdered here. Their bodies were put into a well and ditch, no longer part of the property. The bones were exhumed and buried in the crypt when a road was being built. In the second room in the crypt Br. Solomon’s name appears just inside the doorway on the left-hand side. Here in this room are gathered the bones of at least 100 of the martyrs. The skulls are kept separate to show the marks of the violence done to the people.
Brothers by the Numbers
At the beginning of the French Revolution the Brothers had in their schools, which were nearly all free, about half as many pupils (36,000) as there were in all the secondary schools in France (72,747). At that time, there were 121 communities in France and six communities abroad, totaling about 1000 Brothers. In 1792, when the Institute was suppressed on all French territory, in decreeing this suppression the Assembly nevertheless declared that the Brothers had “deserved well of their country.”