Chartres, a Fragmented Library. Reconstruction of the medieval collection of the abbey of Saint-Père-en-Vallée

Chartres, BM, MS 13; Photo: Claudia Rabel


Doctoral Candidate: Mag. Mag. Veronika Drescher

Ph.D. Supervisors: Prof. Christoph Flüeler, University of Fribourg; Prof. François Bougard, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

Before the Second World War, the Bibliothèque municipale de Chartres was amongst the libraries with the richest collection of medieval manuscripts in France. Most of their over 500 medieval codices, came from the cathedral chapter of Chartres and the Benedictine abbey Saint-Père-en-Vallée. On 26 May 1944 a fire, indirectly caused by an American bomb, demolished the Chartres town hall where the library was then located. Fire and water destroyed about 59% of the medieval manuscripts, and the state of preservation of what remains is very uneven: from almost intact codices to melted and charred pieces of parchment. Research undertaken since then has sought to identify and reconstruct the damaged volumes.

This thesis project explores the medieval collection of the Saint-Père monastery, which has until today remained in the shadow of the chapter and the famous School of Chartres. Already in the early 11th century, the abbey could boast a library with more than 100 manuscripts. The core of this thesis is the edition and analysis of the two medieval and six modern catalogues and lists, which describe this collection in its different historical states. This will be combined with a study of the remaining codices, not only those in Chartres but also those that left the monastery before the French Revolution and can now be found in libraries all over Western Europe. This study will offer valuable clues on the manuscript collection, its quality, quantity and content and hopefully give answers to the following questions: How was the library organized / classified? What literary genres could be found in the collection? What importance did the monastic community give to the library ? How developed was the network between Chartres and its neighbouring monasteries and their scriptoria? The result will be a classic library history carried out in the broader perspective of cultural history.