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Tuesday, 20 September 2022 12:00

International Conference on John of St. Samson

The first ever conference devoted to John of St. Samson (1571-1636), author of abundant spiritual and mystical works, will be held September 28-October 1, at the Auditorium Paul Ricoeur of the Archives départementales d’Ille-et-Vilaine. Its organization is the fruit of joint efforts between the Archives, the Université Rennes 2/Tempora, Cellam, the Maltese Carmelite Institute (CIM), the University of Malta (UOM), TBI/Radboud University and the CEHS Grands Carmes and is sponsored by Le Departement Ille & Vilaine, Metropole Rennes, Région Bretagne, UOM, CIM and CEHS.

The colloquium is intended to be a genuine rediscovery of John St-Samson as Carmelite, mystic, and poet. The conference will bring together specialists of the spiritual literature of the 17th century and historians of Catholicism in the modern period, both French and from other countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, and Malta.

The publishing house of the Carmelite Order, Edizioni Carmelitane, is planning a modern edition of the Complete Works, with four of eleven planned volumes completed.

The conference will be held at the Archive of Ille-et-Vilaine, which preserves an exceptional collection of St. Samson’s manuscripts. The first session will be devoted to a presentation of the collection and challenges with the edition. The volumes published in the 17th century, twenty years after John's death, were sometimes very different from the manuscripts preserved at the Archive. The latter are not autographs, because Jean de Saint-Samson was visually impaired and dictated his teachings. The manuscripts in Rennes are the most complete. All the speakers at the colloquium had access to digital copies and working transcriptions.

A second session will attempt to appreciate the historical role of Jean de Saint-Samson. Originally from Sens in Burgundy, Jean Du Moulin came to Paris in 1597 and was admitted to the Carmelite priory of Dol-de-Bretagne in 1606 and took his religious name there. Although a "lay brother,” he acquired a strong influence over the novices and, in 1612, was called to Rennes by the prior. From then on, historians consider him to be the "spiritual master" of the Touraine Reform Movement, a reforming current of which Rennes was the focus.

The focus will then shift to St. Samson’s writings to consider their reception and his influence. A central point is the link of Jean de Saint-Samson's spirituality to the "abstract" mysticism of Rheno-Flemish origin. The theme of love in his writings, the best-known today being the Epithalamium, will be addressed.

The poetry of Jean de Saint-Samson, almost entirely unpublished, will be a volume in itself in the current edition of the Complete Works. The poetry will also receive a full day of examination at the colloquium.

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