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Gueranger, Dom Prosper: In a Great and Noble Tradition

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The Benedictine abbey of Solesmes in France is famous for the quality of its Gregorian chant, recordings of which are appreciated throughout the world. Nevertheless, the life of its founder, Dom Prosper Gueranger (1805-1875) is still relatively unknown. This is partly due to Gueranger himself, who never sought to promote his life story. While he published many liturgical and spiritual works, this highly personal account of his early life and events surrounding the foundation of Solesmes in 1833 was never intended for publication, and indeed was never completed. For this reason, the manuscript remained in the archives of the abbey of Solesmes for well over a hundred years. Growing recognition of its wider importance and interest led to its eventual publication in 2005, the bicentenary of Gueranger's birth. The book is far more than a personal portrait of an interesting and innovative individual. Through the prism of events surrounding his early life as a seminarian, secular priest and then Benedictine monk, Gueranger's account illustrates many of the wider issues at play in early nineteenth-century France and French Catholicism. Gueranger's first-hand account of various political events under the regimes of Napoleon I, the Bourbon Restoration and Louis-Philippe has its own historical value. Above all, however, the book shows how Gueranger's project to re-found Benedictine life in France, after its disappearance in the wake of the French Revolution, stood in relation to other currents of religious thought and monastic tradition, notably Gallicanism, Ultramontanism, the Maurists and the Cistercians.