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100 years ago: Monks return to Solesmes

02 September 2022

September 1st, 1922.

FOR twenty years the great abbey of Solesmes has been untenanted. Indeed, the new buildings have hardly been tenanted at all, for they were scarcely finished when, in 1903, the religious of France were driven from their land, and the Benedictines among them. They came to Appuldurcombe, in the Isle of Wight, and then bought the ruins of Quarr Abbey, built a new home, and waited for the turn of fortune’s wheel which should make possible their home-coming. The French Government and the Vatican have now composed their differences, Solesmes will soon again be the chief home of Plainsong, and Quarr in turn be empty until put to new uses. Solesmes has nine centuries of Benedictine history, interrupted only by persecutions of the Church and monasticism. It was founded in 1010 as a priory dependent upon the abbey of Le Mans. In the seventeenth century it was absorbed by the Congregation of St Maur, and in 1722 it was rebuilt on a large scale. In 1791 it was suppressed, and the land lay desolate forty years. Dom Prosper Guéranger, greatest of modern Benedictines, acquired it in 1831, and since then it has become the mother-house of the Congregation of France and of nine daughter-houses in various countries. Three times before the expulsion of 1903 the monks had been driven from their cloister, and returned; it is devoutly to be hoped that they will now be suffered by the politicians to dwell in peace. For such a house as Solesmes is a strength of the whole Church, not only in the furthering of those liturgical studies in which Dom Prosper Guéranger was himself so proficient, and in its restoration of the true plain-chant, but in that regular observance without which all else would be as nothing.

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