5) Mother St. Louis [Antoinette (or Marie Anne) Brideau] -- sub-prioress -- age 42.
6) Mother Teresa of the Holy Heart of Mary [Marie Antoinette (or Anne) Hanisset] -- portress -- age 52.
7) Sister Euphrasie of the Immaculate Conception [Marie Claude Cyprienne (or Catherine Charlotte) Brard]
-- age 58.
8) Sister Teresa of St. Ignatius [Marie-Gabrielle Trézel] -- choir-nun -- age 51.
9) Sister Julie Louise of Jesus [Rose-Chrètien de la Neuville] -- widow, choir-nun -- age 53.
10) Sister Marie Henriette of Providence [Annette Pelras] -- choir-nun -- age 34.
11) Sister Constance [Marie Jeanne Meunier] -- novice -- the youngest -- the first to be executed -- age 28.
12) Sister Mary of the Holy Ghost [Angélique Roussel] -- lay-sister -- age 52.
13) Sister St. Martha [Marie Dufour] -- lay-sister -- age 52.
14) Sister St. Francis Xavier [Juliette (or Julie) Vérolot] -- lay sister -- age 29.
15) Tourière [Louise Soiron] -- age 52.
16) Tourière [Thérèse Soiron] -- age 46.
Here is their story…
Although the holy women suffered martyrdom in Paris, they are said to be of Compiègne, for that is where their convent was located. “The Convent of Compiègne, where our martyrs were trained to holiness, was founded in 1641 by Elisabeth de Louvencourt, widow of Antoine Trudaine, Treasurer of the Kingdom, and mother of a Carmelite nun.” ~ (CTS, p. 4).
“The first nuns of the new convent came from the Carmelite monasteries of Amiens and of Paris. They met with a kind welcome from the Bishop of Soissons, to whose diocese Compiègne then belonged. . . . The local authorities likewise showed the newcomers much respect, and before taking possession of their monastery, the nuns were invited to partake of a splendid ‘collation’ at the Hôtel de Ville.” ~ (CTS, p. 4).
It seems appropriate to furnish some details about the town of Compiègne itself. Situated on the left bank of the Oise River, Compiègne lies 52 miles north-by-northeast of Paris. Its population in 1906 was 14,052; in 1936 it stood at 17,929, and the latest count was 43,880. Its population at the time of the Carmelite martyrs would be difficult if not impossible to ascertain.
Historical events, both religious and secular, took place in Compiègne and in the nearby forest that is “chiefly of oak and beech and covers over 36,000 acres.” ~ (EB, 11th edition, 1910: vol. VI, 811a).
“At Compiègne where, next to his hunting lodge, Charles the Bald had built the great Abbey of Notre Dame, placing therein the bodies of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian, and where Kings Louis the Stammerer and Eudes were crowned and buried, there were held, in the course of the ninth century, numerous councils which regulated the political and religious questions of the time. A council at Compiègne in 1092 forced the heretic Roscelin to retire.” ~ (TCE: vol. II, 378b).
“. . . every year on 27 June, there is a religious procession through the streets of Beauvais . . . Cardinal Pierre d’Ally was born in Compiègne. The places of pilgrimage are: Notre Dame de Bon Secours at Compiègne, a shrine erected in 1637 as an expression of gratitude for the raising [bringing to an end] of the siege of the city by the Spaniards . . .” ~ (TCE: vol. II, 378c).
“Whilst the popes constantly rejected absolute divorce in all cases, we find some of the Frankish synods of the eighth century which allowed it in certain acute cases. In this regard the councils of Verberie (752) and Compiègne (757) erred especially.” ~ (TCE: vol. V, 57d).
“In its thirteenth canon . . . the council of Compiègne gives a somewhat ambiguous decision and may seem to allow absolute divorce. . . . Nevertheless, the intended choice of the state of Christian perfection seems to imply that this canon must be limited to a marriage that has not been consummated. Hence it gives the correct Catholic doctrine.” ~ (TCE: vol. V, 58a).
The Council of Compiègne in 759 decreed the validity of marriages “contracted with full knowledge of the circumstances between free persons and slaves.” ~ (TCE: vol. XIV, 38a).
“A third feast [celebrating the Winding Sheet of Christ] . . . was during the Middle Ages kept at Compiègne in France in honour of a winding sheet brought there from Aachen in 877. ~ (TCE: vol. XV, 652b).
“Several expiatory chapels exist in Paris: (1) in memory of Louis XVI and the members of his family who fell victims to the Terror; (2) in memory of the 1300 persons beheaded at the barrier of the Place du Trône, including the 16 Carmelites of Compiègne, and buried in the cemetery of Picpus . . .” ~ (TCE: vol. XI, 489d).
In April of 1430 Saint Joan of Arc’s voices made known to her that she would be taken prisoner before Midsummer Day. At sunrise on May 24th, she entered Compiègne to defend the town against a Burgundian attack. “In the evening she resolved to attempt a sortie, but her little troop of some five hundred encountered a much superior force.” At Compiègne she was finally captured by the English. ~ (TCE: vol. VIII, 411b).
“A monument to her [St. Joan of Arc] faces the Hôtel de Ville [at Compiègne].” ~ (EB, 1946: vol. 6, 181b).
In the year 665, it was at Compiègne that Saint Wilfrid was consecrated Bishop of York. ~ (INT).
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In February of 888, Odo, Count of Paris and King of the Franks, was crowned in Compiègne. ~ (INT).
In the year 1630, Marie de Medici’s attempts to displace Richelieu ultimately led to her exile to Compiègne, whence she escaped to Brussels in 1631. ~ (INT).
The Benedictine monks of the abbey at Compiègne “retained down to the 18th century the privilege of acting for three days as lords of Compiègne, with full power to release prisoners, condemn the guilty, and even inflict sentence of death. It was in Compiègne that King Louis I the Debonair was deposed in 833; and at the siege of the town in 1430 Joan of Arc was taken prisoner by the English. . . . In 1624 the town gave its name to a treaty of alliance concluded by Richelieu with the Dutch; and it was in the palace that Louis XV gave welcome to Marie Antoinette, that Napoleon I received Marie Louise of Austria, that Louis XVIII entertained Alexander of Russia, and that Leopold I, king of the Belgians, was married to the princess Louise.” ~ (EB, 1910: vol. VI, 811a).
“In 1824 Compiègne offered a stubborn resistance to the Prussian troops. From 1870 to 1871 it was one of the headquarters of the German army. The town was occupied by the Germans in 1914, and was bombarded in 1918.” ~ (EB, 1946: vol. 6, 181b).
On November 11, 1918, the Germans surrendered to the French Field Marshal, Ferdinand Foch, aged 67 at the time. The surrender took place in Foch’s railway dining car that was parked in a clearing in the aforementioned forest bordering the town of Compiègne. “For with revolution at home and the gathering menace on their frontier, the German delegates had no option but to accept the drastic terms of the Armistice, which was signed in Foch’s railway-carriage in the Forest of Compiègne at 5 A.M. on Nov. 11, and at 11 o’clock that morning the World War came to an end.” ~ (EB, 1946: vol. 23, 775b).
“During World War II, the Germans again occupied the town [Compiègne] in June 1940; the Franco-German armistice of June 22, 1940 was signed in the same dining car at Compiègne. Later the Germans moved the car to Berlin.” ~ (EB, 1946: vol. 6, 181b).
At Compiègne there is a replica of the original train carriage. ~ (INT).
“June 22, 1940 – armistice between Germany (III Reich) and the defeated France at Compiègne. Same place as 1918, same railroad carriage but swapped seats.” ~ (INT).
In 1968 the starting location of the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race that takes place on the Sunday after Easter each year was changed from Paris to Compiègne. ~ (INT).
The Masonic Revolutions
Many reliable writers, notably Father E. Cahill, S.J. in Freemasonry And The Anti-Christian Movement and Nesta H. Webster in The French Revolution and Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, document the fact that the French Revolution with its sanguinary “Reign of Terror” was planned, instigated and carried out by French Freemasons of the Grand Orient Lodge. Their aim, which always has been the principal goal of Freemasonry in general, was the destruction of all religions, especially Catholicism, and the extermination of the Catholic Clergy and Religious. The following passage is from pages 14-15 of Father Cahill’s Freemasonry And The Anti-Christian Movement , M.H. Gill and Son Limited, Dublin, 1930.
It is now an established fact, insisted on and emphasized by Masonic writers, that the French Revolution of 1789 was prepared and plotted by the Freemasons, that to them also were due its horrors and fierce anti-Christian bias. Helvetius, Voltaire, and Rousseau, the great apostles of the modern anti-Christian movements, were Freemasons. So were La Fayette, Talleyrand and Mirabeau, as well as Benjamin Franklin, their Anglo-American ally. The Jacobin Club of Paris (1789) was Masonic. The leaders of the Reign of Terror, Robespierre, Danton, Marat were all Freemasons. Again, the French Revolutions of 1830 and 1848, as well as the contemporary revolutions in so many other European States, were principally the work of Masonry. Louis Philippe, Thiers, Guizot, Lamartine, Louis Blanc etc., were Freemasons. So too was Kossuth, who led the revolutionary movement against Austria (1848). The work of Freemasons in assassinating Count Rossi, the Prime Minister of Pius IX, and in bringing about the Italian Revolution, with the accompanying spoliation of the Papal States is well known and recognized.”
On June 10, 1794, the power of the French revolutionary tribunals was increased, which led to a flare-up of executions. Just over five weeks later the occupants of the Carmelite convent at Compiègne would be martyred for the faith. They were in the Masonic Revolutionaries’ gun sights, a prime target for liquidation, and there were two simple reasons for this: they were members of a Religious Order; they were there, easily to be taken.
Expelled from Their Monastery
When the Revolution of 1789 broke out, the Carmelite Monastery of Compiègne presented a perfect picture of religious fervour and peace. A few years before, in 1780, according to an established custom, the nuns received the visit of a high ecclesiastical dignitary, Monsieur Rigaud . . . He was so deeply impressed by their fervent spirit, their strict adherence to their Rule, their mutual charity and general perfection in all things, that he gave them no other advice but to continue in the same course. . . . The venerable Mother Julie Billiart [now St. Julie Billiart], foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of Notre Dame, used as a girl to be a frequent visitor at the convent, and, in after-life she was never weary of telling her own spiritual daughters of the Carmelites of Compiègne and their great holiness. It was thus that unconsciously the future martyrs trained themselves for difficulties and struggles of no common order, to be crowned by a cruel death.” ~ (CTS, pp. 4-5).
“Meantime the political horizon of their country was becoming daily more threatening; by a decree dated February 13, 1790, the Government suppressed all religious houses throughout the kingdom, and, a few months later, in August the civil authorities of Compiègne made an official visit to the community. They solemnly informed the nuns that their chains were broken, their prison doors thrown open, and they might now return to free and happy lives in the world. The Carmelites, one and all, replied that they were neither prisoners nor victims, that their mode of life had been embraced freely and gladly, that they desired no change; on the contrary, that they asked but for the privilege of remaining faithful to the Rule they had willingly chosen. Their spirited answers, breathing a courage worthy of the valiant Spanish Saint, their foundress and mother, have been preserved word for word in the local archives.” ~ (CTS, p. 5).
“Two years more passed by in comparative tranquility, but on the 14th of September, 1792, they were peremptorily commanded to leave their monastery; the Government having laid violent hands on all religious houses throughout France. They had no alternative but to obey. Sadly and tearfully they abandoned the cloistered home they loved so well, but their clinging to their Rule was too intense to allow them to renounce it without an effort. Unlike the greater number of nuns, who, when sent adrift upon the world, took refuge with their families and friends, the Carmelites of Compiègne refused to separate. Dividing themselves into three groups, in order to escape attention, they retired to private houses in the quarter of the town close to their old home. Here they continued to observe as closely as possible their former mode of life under the guidance of their Prioress.” ~ (CTS, pp. 5-6).
Arrested ~ “Enemies of the State”
“But even the quiet lives of the Carmelites excited suspicion at an epoch when none were safe. In the spring of 1794 they were accused of practicing a ‘fanatical rule’ in secret.. On the 21st and 22nd of June the houses in which they lived were searched and their papers and relics seized. Some of the former were considered as most compromising: a hymn to the Sacred Heart, a picture of the same, a copy of the last testament of Louis XVI, a few letters in which occurred the words, ‘priest,’ ‘novena,’ ‘scapular’ – these documents found in their possession sufficed to stamp them as enemies of the State. They were therefore placed under arrest and conducted to the former Convent of the Visitation in Compiègne, now [at that time] used as a prison.” ~ (CTS, p. 9).
“In the prison of Compiègne the sixteen Religious suffered much from hunger and thirst. They were fed chiefly on bread and water, but the allowance given them was scanty and barely sufficient to keep them alive. Their sweetness and courage, however, remained unchanged, and they gladly accepted all privations as a preparation for the end which they felt was near at hand.” ~ (CTS, p. 10).
“On the 12th of July orders came to transfer the sixteen Carmelites to Paris. . . . in those days the prisoners who were summoned to Paris were considered as already sentenced to the guillotine. Obediently the nuns seated themselves in two rough carts filled with straw, their hands tightly bound behind their backs, and a body of mounted police surrounding them. The journey lasted from the Saturday afternoon to the Sunday morning. Not once were their hands untied, and we may imagine the fatigue and discomfort they endured, as also the fervent prayers that rose from their hearts whilst the carts jogged along the rough country roads in the stillness of the summer night.” ~ (CTS, p. 13).
“Such were the sixteen victims who, during that summer night, traveled slowly and painfully from Compiègne to Paris. On arriving they were conducted to the Conciergerie, and ordered to alight. Their hands were still tightly bound, and Sister Charlotte, who was seventy-nine years of age and very infirm, endeavoured in vain to obey. Her cramped limbs could not move, and, her companions with their hands bound behind their backs being powerless to help her, one of the guards seized and flung her out of the cart on to the pavement of the court, where she fell bruised and bleeding. When she was raised up she gently said, ‘I am not angry with you, but very glad that you did not kill me. I should have been deprived of the glory and happiness of martyrdom, which my Sisters and I hope for.’ Another nun, aged eighty [She was Sister Of Jesus Crucified, Marie Anne Piedcourt.], was equally forgiving: ‘How can we be angry with those deluded men,’ she used to say, ‘since they are going to open for us the gates of heaven?’ ” ~ (CTS, pp. 15-16).
“Judged” and Executed
“On the 17th of July, about ten in the morning, they were summoned to appear before the Revolutionary tribunal, which, as has been said, held its sittings in the building adjoining the Conciergerie.” The nuns “were accused of having conspired against the Republic, and of having, in defiance of the new laws, continued to observe their ‘fanatical rule of life.’ As proofs to support these charges, it was asserted that a hymn to the Sacred Heart, a picture of the same, a portrait of the late King, and other seditious emblems had been found in their possession, together with letters from émigré priests, and firearms, evidently intended for the use of the enemies of the Republic.” ~ (CTS, p. 17).
“To this last accusation, which had not a shadow of foundation, the Mother Prioress answered by pointing to the crucifix she carried in her hand : ‘These are the only weapons that were ever brought into our house,’ she said, ‘and I defy you to prove that we ever possessed others.’ To the accusation that letters had been discovered addressed to the community by the former chaplain, then in exile, Mother Teresa replied with equal good sense and generosity, first, that these letters, treating of purely spiritual matters, could not be looked upon as dangerous for the safety of the Republic; secondly, that the nuns not being allowed to correspond even with their relations without permission of their Prioress, she alone could in justice be considered as responsible for the letters, if their existence was an offence. ‘If you require a victim,’ she added, ‘it is I alone whom you must punish, the others are innocent.’ ‘They are your accomplices,’ was the answer. The Prioress then endeavoured to save the two poor servants, whom their love for the community exposed to death, and who were accused of having posted the compromising letters. ‘They knew nothing of the contents of the letters,’ she urged, ‘and being servants what could they do but obey orders without inquiry or remonstrance?’ ” ~ (CTS, pp. 17-18).
“Sister Marie Henriette showed no less courage; hearing that they were charged with fanaticism, she interrupted the public accuser and called upon him to explain his meaning. He replied that by ‘fanaticism’ he meant their obstinate clinging to the ancient faith. ‘Oh, my Sisters,’ exclaimed the warm-hearted daughter of the south, ‘you hear what he says; we are accused and shall be condemned on account of our fidelity to God! What happiness is ours, we are to die for God’s sake! ’ ” ~ (CTS, p. 18).
“As may be imagined, a sentence of death followed this mock trial, and the execution was to take place within twenty-four hours. They heard the verdict with joy; their eyes were raised to heaven, and a fervent prayer of thanksgiving burst from their lips.” ~ (CTS, p. 18).
“When the carts began their journey through the busy Paris streets, the nuns intoned the Miserere, then the Salve Regina, lastly the Te Deum. . . . The voices of the white-robed nuns arose above the noise of the crowded thoroughfare; the triumphant accents of the Te Deum floated through the sultry atmosphere of that July day, and a sensation of awe crept over the spectators. In some hearts perhaps the sound of those sacred hymns awoke echoes of an innocent and distant past. And so the long journey was performed, at first amidst the tumult and confusion of angry passions and rough voices, then in solemn silence, till the Place du Trône was reached at last. The Carmelites descended from the carts and, as simply and naturally as though they were about to commence the Divine Office, knelt down, a snow-white group, at the foot of the scaffold. They sang the Veni Creator, and then in a clear, firm voice renewed their baptismal and religious vows. Strange to say, the people, the officials, the soldiers, the executioners themselves, stood by, silent and respectful! Not a word of impatience, not a hostile exclamation was heard; many of the spectators seemed, on the contrary, deeply moved; a few of them wept..” ~ (CTS, p. 20).
“Having completed their preparation, they rose from their knees. The Mother Prioress, faithful to the end to the responsibilities of her office, asked to be executed last, and her request was granted. The first to die was the young novice, Sister Constance. She fell upon her knees before the Prioress, who blessed her, then with a light step ascended the blood-stained staircase, singing the Laudate, which was taken up by her Sisters at the foot of the guillotine. ‘She looked,’ says an eyewitness, ‘like a queen going to be crowned.’ After her came Sister Marie Henriette; her lovely countenance had never been so radiant. Like Sister Constance, she sang the Laudate until death silenced her voice for ever. Then one by one the others followed; the aged Sister Charlotte, ever forgiving, saying to the executioner: ‘I forgive you as heartily as I ask God’s pardon for myself.’ At last the sound of singing grew fainter; of the sixteen who, a few minutes ago, had chanted the Laudate, only one was left. Mother Teresa of St. Augustin, having placed her charges safe in the hands of God, prepared to follow in her footsteps; in her hand she held a tiny statue of Our Lady that the Sisters had, each in turn, kissed before ascending the scaffold; this she gave to a friend who stood near; then calmly and joyfully went to receive the martyr’s crown for which she had so fervently prayed.” ~ (CTS, pp. 20-21).
Profiles Of The Martyrs
“St. Teresa’s mantle seems to have descended upon this noble woman [the Prioress]; brave and prudent, with the courage of a man and the loving heart of a true mother, she worthily discharged the duties of her office in times of peculiar difficulty and danger. Mother Teresa of St. Augustin, called in the world Madeleine Claudine Lidoine, was just forty years old in 1792. She had become a nun at the age of twenty-one . . . Her predecessor as Prioress was still alive, and between the two there seems to have existed a close and affectionate union. The ex-Prioress, Mother Henriette of Jesus, née de Croissy, was a great-niece of Colbert, the famous Minister. She entered the Order when only sixteen. The Bishop of Amiens, Mgr. de la Motte, introduced her to the community in these terms: ‘You may safely receive her, she is an angel upon earth.’ . . . Mother Teresa of St. Augustin and Mother Henriette of Jesus may be justly regarded as the leading spirits whose sweet and powerful influence guided the virgin-band of martyrs through the narrow path of suffering to a glorious sacrifice.”
~ (CTS, p. 6).
“We are acquainted with the two leaders of the little band – Mothers Teresa of St. Augustin and Henriette of Jesus. The others were Sisters Charlotte Thouret of the Resurrection and Marie Anne Piedcourt of Jesus Crucified, two aged nuns, who, after showing some signs of terror at the outbreak of the revolution, displayed much tranquil heroism when the peril of their situation became greater. The sensitive and loving nature of Sister Charlotte of the Resurrection rendered her a special favorite among the Sisters, but it also made her suffer more keenly than they did. The dispersion of the community, the perpetual anxiety in which she lived, the prospect of a violent death seem to have preyed upon her and seriously injured her health. But when the hour of sacrifice came none met it with a calmer brow and sweeter composure than she did. ~ (CTS, p. 14).
“The sub-Prioress, Mother St. Louis, and the portress, Mother Teresa of the Holy Heart of Mary, were younger, and both were exemplary Religious. Sister Euphrasie was singularly intelligent. Queen Marie Lechzinska used to call her ‘my sweet nun philosopher.’ Sister Teresa of St. Ignatius was surnamed by her Sisters ‘the hidden treasure,’ on account of the rare qualities concealed under a modest and retiring manner.” ~ (CTS, p. 14).
“Sister Julie Louise of Jesus was a widow who in the world had been known as Madame de la Neuville. Her grief when she lost her husband was such that for eighteen months she refused to leave her room and to see even her mother and sister. At last, in 1776, she decided to become a Carmelite, and, by the advice of the Princess Louise of France she selected the Compiègne Convent. Her apparent coldness and a certain haughtiness of manner alarmed the younger novices, and they decided to make a novena that she might leave the convent. [Now that was resourceful feminine thinking!] The novice mistress, however, only smiled at their dismay. ‘Patience,’ she said; ‘let God have His way, He knows best..’; and by degrees it was noticed that the unpopular novice became sweeter, gentler, and more devoted to others until she won all hearts. When the hour of peril came she proved herself a heroine, for she was naturally timid and the prospects of a violent death terrified her, but she steadily refused to separate from the community, and her courage when it was put to the test, equaled that of her religious Sisters.” ~ (CTS, pp. 14-15).
“Sister Marie Henriette was one of the most interesting of the group. She was just thirty-two and very lovely. Her family name was Annette Pelras, and she was born in the South of France, of parents remarkable for their piety; out of her eight brothers and sisters five became priests or nuns. Her courage was great, and throughout her imprisonment she displayed great presence of mind and an ardent enthusiasm, characteristic of her warm southern blood.” ~ (CTS, p. 15).
“Younger than Sister Marie Henriette was Marie Jeanne Meunier, Sister Constance, who was only twenty-eight and still a novice. There were also three lay-sisters – Sister Mary of the Holy Ghost, Sister Saint Martha, and Sister Francis Xavier. Of these the last mentioned was under thirty and had made her vows at the beginning of the Revolution. Before allowing her to bind herself by solemn promises the Prioress warned her that evil days were at hand for Religious Orders of France; she answered simply, ‘You may be quite easy about me, Mother. If only I am allowed to make my vows and to dedicate myself to God, I shall be quite happy whatever happens.’ To these fourteen Religious we must add the two faithful tourières, Louise and Thérèse Soiron, who, although not bound by vows, considered themselves as belonging to the community. In happier days they had been employed outside the enclosure as the messengers of the convent; when evil times came they cast their lot in with that of the nuns, and refused to leave them.” ~ (CTS, p. 15).
“The miracles proved during the process of beatification were (1) The cure of Sister Clare of St. Joseph, a Carmelite lay sister of New Orleans, when on the point of death from cancer, in June, 1897; (2) The cure of the Abbé Roussarie, of the seminary at Brive, when at the point of death, 7 March, 1897; (3) The cure of Sister St. Martha of St. Joseph, a Carmelite lay sister of Vans, of tuberculosis and an abscess in the right leg, 1 Dec., 1897; (4) The cure of Sister St. Michael, a Franciscan of Montmorillon, 9 April, 1898.” ~ (TCE: vol. XIV, 517b).
Note: All the details, references and quotations concerning the martyrs that are presented in this article are taken from the tract authored by the Comtesse de Couson that appeared in Volume 49 of Catholic Truth Society Publications,