St. Lazare

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St. Lazare was a cloister that once existed in Paris. According to James Glass Bertram's book Flagellation and the Flagellants, it hosted the "seminary of the good boys" (des bons enfants), an educational institution run by monks who were known as "the good fathers of St. Lazare".

These pious monks, according to Bertram, were such firm believers in the benefits of corporal punishment that they not only used the same liberally on their students, but also offered corporal punishment services, for a fee, to the public.

This took the following form: Whoever in town had a charge he felt was in need of a good whipping and wanted to trust this job to the experienced "good fathers", would send the boy to St. Lazare to deliver a message. The message would read something like, "M. So-and-so presents compliments to father -----, and begs him to reward the bearer with twenty stripes well laid on," accompanied by a proper fee for their efforts. The boy would not know what was in store for him when he delivered that note, but would be caught by surprise.

As Bertram writes, "Fathers or mothers who had undutiful sons, tutors who had unruly pupils, uncles who were entrusted with the education of ungovernable nephews, masters who had wickedly-inclined apprentices, whom they were themselves unable or afraid to correct, applied to the fathers of St. Lazare, and by properly feeing them had their wishes gratified."

There seems to have been no upper age limit, and "Ladies, it is said, who had been forsaken or otherwise cruelly used by their admirers, would recur, when other means failed, to the ministry of the fathers of St. Lazare; and if they took care that the fathers received the proper fee, and got the gentleman once within the walls of the school, they were certain to get the satisfaction of knowing that he had been properly whipped."

Occasionally, it is said, a young man who was sent with a message of that kind would undesignedly charge someone else to deliver it if they chanced to pass that way, "and the unfortunate bearer, of course, had no sooner delivered the dangerous note (...) than he was collared, horsed, and flogged."

Time and place[edit]

The author of Flagellation and the Flagellants does not name the source of this story, nor does he mention the time when this was, or the exact location of St. Lazare. Assuming that the story has a true background, a Web research carried out by Spankart in April 2009 revealed this:

Saint-Lazare in Paris[edit]

Chapel of Saint-Lazare, Paris.

A district in the Xe arrondissement of Paris was once home to a priory named Saint-Lazare. The history of this place is as follows:

  • 12th century - a leper colony, léproserie de Saint-Ladre, is founded on the road from Paris to Saint-Denis at the boundary of the marshy area of former Seine river bank.
  • Before 1131 - An abbey named Saint-Lazare (abbaye des frères de Saint-Lazare) is established at the leper colony. A huge enclosure of thirty-two hectares is built around the area, the enclos Saint-Lazare.
  • Unknown year - The abbey becomes a priory, i.e. it is now under the rule of a prior rather than an abbot.
  • 1632 - The priory Saint-Lazare is ceded to Vincent de Paul and the congrégation de la Mission (Congregation of the Mission)
  • 1660 - Vincent de Paul dies in Saint-Lazare.
  • 1789 - The French Revolution sweeps over the country. Saint-Lazare is looted and plundered on the day before the Bastille is stormed.
  • 1793 - In the period known as the Reign of Terror, the maison Saint-Lazare, which had been a place of detention before, is converted to an official prison, the Prison Saint-Lazare.
  • 1823 - The church of the former priory is demolished.
  • 1844 - A new church is erected, the église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.
  • 1896 - The Prison Saint-Lazare is converted to a women's prison.
  • 1935 - The prison is largely demolished, only the prison infirmary and chapel (built in 1834) remain.

Collège/séminaire des bons enfants[edit]

A seminary is not an ordinary school but a specialized education institution for the purpose of instructing students in philosophy, theology, spirituality and the religious life, usually in order to prepare them to become members of the clergy.

  • St. Vincent de Paul's Congregation of the Mission had its beginnings in 1624 or 1625 in the Collège des Bons Enfants in Paris (source). This college was located in the 5th arrondissement (source). Vincent de Paul himself was director of the Collège des Bons Enfants. He drew up rules and constitutions for the house, and these were approved by Pope Urban VIII in 1632. (source).
  • In 1632, they were given the priory of St. Lazare, which became henceforth the chief house of the congregation. From 1632 to 1707, the Collège des Bons Enfants was an annex to Saint Lazare as a séminaire (novitiate) and retreat house (source).
  • A séminaire des Bons-Enfants, dépendant de Saint-Lazare which was founded in February 1642 is mentioned here (page 17).
  • A séminaire des Bons-Enfants "founded by Saint Vincent de Paul and the Lazarists" is mentioned here.

We can probably assume that the collège des Bons Enfants, since it was a seminary, and the séminaire des Bons-Enfants, are one and the same institution. There were other seminaries named séminaire des bons enfants in Paris too, such as one in the 14th century near rue Saint-Victor (source: Hearing the Motet by Dolores Pesce, page 72). But these were not in St. Lazare. Therefore we can probably date the story of the "good fathers" of the seminary "des bons enfants" in St. Lazare, Paris, to the period between 1632 and 1707.

See also[edit]


Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Prison Saint-Lazare. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Spanking Art, the text of Wikipedia is available under a copyleft license, the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.
Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Congregation of the Mission. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Spanking Art, the text of Wikipedia is available under a copyleft license, the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.