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Soissons – Abbey of St. Medard
abbey of St. Medard is less than an abbey ruin today. There is a crypt
that is not open to the public but easily accessible. In fact, in 2001
it looked like a play area for neighborhood children. It is in a residential
area on the outskirts of Soissons, about ½ hour walk from the center
of town. The site is unmarked but the crypt is impressive. Charles the
Bald was here for its dedication in 840/41. There is early paint on the
walls and when we were there we had it to ourselves, which allowed a feel
for what it might have been like. The top picture shows the outside of
the site, essentially the half buried crypt of the old abbey church. Below
left is longer view along the axis of the crypt, with typical Carolingian
barrel vaulting. The right picture is a small seat or statuary niche. Perhaps
Charles the Bald sat here in 841. :)
From the Catholic (New Advent) Encyclopedia: "The Abbey of St-Médard at Soissons, founded in 557 by Clotaire I to receive the body of St. Médard, was looked upon as the chief Benedictine Abbey in France; it held more than two hundred and twenty fiefs. Hilduin, abbot (822-30) in 826 obtained from Eugene II relics of St. Sebastian and St. Gregory the Great; he caused the relics of St. Godard and St. Remi to be transferred to the abbey; he rebuilt the church which was consecrated 27 August, 841, in the presence of Charles the Bald and seventy-two prelates. The king bore the body of St. Médard into the new basilica. The church was pulled down but rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1131 by Innocent II, who granted those visiting the church indulgences known as "St. Médard's pardons". In this abbey Louis the Pious was imprisoned in 833, and there he underwent a public penance. Among the abbots of St. Médard's are: St. Arnoul, who in 1081 became Bishop of Soissons; St. Gerard (close of the eleventh century)..."
And who was St. Medard? From the Catholic Forum : "Son of Nectardus, a Frankish noble, and Protagia, Gallo-Roman nobility. Brother of Saint Gildardus, Bishop of Rouen, France. Pious youth and excellent student, educated at Saint-Quentin. Often accompanied his father on business to Vermand and to Tournai, and frequented the schools there. Ordained at age 33. Reluctant bishop of Vermand in 530; in 531, he moved his see to Noyon, which was further from border clashes. Bishop of Tournai in 532; the union of the two dioceses lasted until 1146. Gave the veil to Queen Saint Radegund. Medardus was one of the most honoured bishops of his time, his memory has always been venerated in northern France, and he soon became the hero of numerous legends.
Legend says that when he was a child, Medard was once sheltered from the rain by a hovering eagle. This is his most common depiction in art, and led to his patronage of good weather, against bad weather, for people who work the fields, etc. Legend has it that if it rains on his feast day, the next 40 days will be wet; if the weather is good, the next 40 will be fine as well. He was also depicted as laughing aloud with his mouth wide open; this led to his patronage against toothache.
Born: c.456 at Salency, Picardy, France
Died: 8 June 545 at Noyon, France; relics at the royal manor of Crouy at the gates of Soissons; Benedictine abbey built over his tomb
Feast day: June 6 "
Peter (Pierre) Abelard was imprisoned here after he fell out with the monks at the abbey of St. Denis, just after the time of this coin. (He was subsequently rehabilitated and restored to monk-hood)
There was an abott here in 1756. I suspect that the abbey met its end with the Revolution, like so many other religious sites.
Soissons is 100 km NE of Paris. Take the
N2 which branches off the toll road to Lille. There is also train service
from Paris. Take a taxi to the abbey and walk back to town.