Berceau of Saint Vincent De Paul
I. THE DE PAUL FAMILY
What did the name De Paul mean? In many parts of France the particle de is a sign of some noble oigin. In Gascony, however, the particle de meant nothing other than joining the given name of an individual to the name of his or her house. A person was named after a saint at baptism and, since several persons often bore the same name, it was customary to follow it with the name of the house where they lived or the property that they farmed, using the particles de, du, or de la between the two. With the passage of time the names thus joined became the family names. In the religious records at Pouy, all the inhabitants in the seventeenth century, even the humblest, had de or du before their name. Vincent always signed his name as Depaul, as one word, a practice followed sometimes even by nobility for their own names. Beginning as early as 1628, Louise and others began to call him regularly Monsieur Vincent, never Monsieur Depaul. In addition he always spelled his first name in the Gascon fashion, with a final s, Vicens, not Vincent, with a final t.
We can presume that the name De Paul had this kind of origin. However, the earliest registers, from the cathedral chapter of Dax, record the name Paul (in the forms of Paul or even Pol) from as early as the 1400's. This offers a solution to the meaning of Paul. This name has nothing to do with Saint Paul, the apostle nor with Latin paulus (little, small) but rather with palo (Latin palus, a marsh). It seems to be a southern version of a common French family name, de Marais, (from the marsh). It is common enough, also, in northern Spain, in the form of Paúl. Which marsh is meant? This is harder to define, but half way between Berceau and Buglose runs a stream called Pont de Paul, and near the shrine of Buglose is a house called Paul. Distant ancestors of his may have lived in that house or on the banks of the nearby marshy stream. Hence that name might have passed to their descendents. Some members of the De Paul family still live in Pouy, and others with the same name, spelled Depaul, live in the surrounding area. Nevertheless, there were De Pauls in Pouy from at least 1509, one of them being named Vincence.
The faily of Vincent's father, Jean de Paul, numbered several important rural orricials: Jean de Paul (1545), a royal sergeant; another Jean de Paul (1564), a canon of Dax; and Etienne de Paul (1577), prior of Pouymartet at Gourgera, seven or eight kilometers north of Pouy. The faily of Vincent's mother, Bertrande de Moras, was also of some importance. She had several lawyers and clergy in her family, people with important posts in Dax, Bordeaux and elsewhere. Besides, her family was related to the more important ones in the area: particularly to the Saint Martin and Comet families --- names occurring in Vincent's biographies. A cousin, Dominique Dusin, was the pastor of Pouy with whom Vincent lodged when he returned in 1624 to visit his family.
The date of Vincent's birth has aroused lively discussion. Abelly, his first biographer, gave it as Easter tuesday of 1576. Easter Tuesday of that year was 24 April. Vincent's own testimony, however, is different. Depending on what weight one gives to various citations, he was borth either in 1580 or 1581. As to the day and month, his birthday could have 24 April, however, which Abelly converted to Easter Tuesday. If not, Easter Tuesday of 1580 was 5 April, the feast of Saint Vincent Ferrer, Vincent's second patron; and the same day in 1581 was 28 March. Vincent himself said his birthday fell in April, but no one seems to have celebrated it in his lifetime or until the nineteenth or twentieth century. Baptismal and civil records, in addition, have disappeared and so cannot resolve the case. Consequently, the exact day, month and year are still open to question. Scholars point to his ordination date in 1600 at age 19 or 20 as the reason why Abelly's collaborators presumed that Vincent must have been the proper canonical age of at least 24. Whether they changed his brith year to conceal this problem, or did so without knowing all the facts, is also unknown.
Vincent's brothers were Jean de Paul, who lived at Lachine (Leschine), a nearby property, larger than his father's place; Bernard; Dominique (also called Menjon and Gayon); his sisters were: Marie, called Mengine, and another Marie, called Claudine, married to a man named Gregoire.
II. THE BERCEAU
The Berceau-de-Saint-Vincent-de-Paul is officially part of the commune of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. In the Berceau (cradle) is the farmhouse called Ranquines, perhaps from the Gascon term ranqueja, to limp. The name may recall the fact that Vincent's father limped, but is seems unlikely, the confusion coming from the fact that the property on which it stands is also called Ranquines. Vincent was born here, not in this same building but in an earlier one on the same site. He often described his father as a pauvre laboureur, meaning not a simple laborer or farm worker in English, but an owner of property who was able to work it. In this the De Paul family differed from many others who did not own land. The term pauvre here referred not to his poverty, which would be laboureur pauvre, but to his condition as having to work for a living. He once wrote: it must be said that I am the son of a peasant [laboureur], and that I pastured swine and cows (Letter 1372). Although the family owned the property of Ranquines, they owed some feudal taxes, as Vincent recalled in later life to the duke of Ventadour, who was also the marquis of Pouy. Vincent himself inherited land from his father, as he testified in an early will written in 1626.
Only 22 years after the death of Vincent did the question arise of the house where he was born. Guillaume Lostalot (b. 1660), a native of Dax, wrote to his confrere Melchior Molenchon (b. 1653), speaking of Bernard de Paul, Vincent's grandnephew. He wrote me that the house of Monsieur Vincent fell to the ground, but that the room where he was born has been preserved intact. Another witness wrote that in 1682, when the house fell over, a cross was placed over the ruins.
On 14 February 1706, the ecclesiastical judge of Dax received in the presence of Father de Cès, who knew the area, four testimonies given under oath in preparation for the beatification and canonization of their countryman. Each one has its own interest, even now.
The first testimony came from Louis de Paul, grandnephew of the saint and owner of the Ranquines property. He was 66 years old, a farmer, and declared that: Monsieur Vincent [his relative] had never given anything to his relatives to bring them out of their poverty. I heard it said that when Monsieur Vincent was young, he gave away his clothes and a part of his bread to the poor. Monsieur Loustalot, pastor of the parish, had a cross placed over the site of the house where the late Monsieur Vincent was born to preserve the memory of his person, for whom he had a special devotion. I have seen several people cutting and carrying away bits of the wood from this cross because of their esteem for Monsieur Vincent ... The room where Monsieur Vincent was born remained standing a long time after the rest of the house fell down and, since the room had been nearly ruined, Monsieur Loustalot had a small chapel built there where he placed an image of the Blessed Virgin. He had a picture of Monsieur Vincent painted kneeling before it. Many individuals, even the processions which go to Our Lady of Buglose, stop here to pray to God, to show the veneration which they have for the memory of Monsieur Vincent. It should be remarked, however, that this grandnephew was not well informed about Vincent's help. His official will, dating from 1630, bequeathed land and money to his family and to their children.
The fourth testimony came from Pierre de Pasquau Darose, inhabitant of Pouy, 70 years old, a master carpenter. He said: By order of Monsieur de Loutalot, pastor of Pouy, I myself made the cross and built the chapel which is at the present time on the place of the house where Monsieur Vincent was born. People come to cut off bits of wood from the cross and to pray to God, in this way showing their veneration for the memory of Monsieur Vincent.
Two traditions about the location of the family house exist. The older one, probably the more accurate, places it under the nave of the present large chapel. The more recent tradition separated the chapel from the house, and thus dictated the house's placement. In any case, the entire site is holy.
In its first position the present house was by the side of the road, turned toward it, facing east. The land on which the house stood was purchased only in 1841 to become part of the present Berceau property. In 1864 the house was shifted a little closer to the chapel, with the result that only a small part of the two placements remains the same. Also, it was then turned to face north for reasons of symmetry.
The current six room house and loft, 12 by 8.5 meters in size, is a typical house of a Gascon landowner, with its exposed wooden joists and compressed earth floor. The marks of the original reeds left their imprint on the bricks that dried on them and, on the inside, only posts and joists were in evidence. In fact, even though this house was not the one that Vincent knew, it is certainly quite similar to it. It evokes him near the very place of his birth. Some of the old beams may have come from the De Paul house. The first crossbeam at the entry, however, has the date 1744 carved in it, coming from one of its reconstructions. Since the outer walls were unstable and frequently repaired, they have been filled with brick and plastered over. The house had a kitchen (the main room) with a fireplace, rooms for the eldest son, the parents, Vincent and his brothers, the daughters, and a lean to, now the oratory. Above is an empty loft. In an earlier time the front section of the loft was used to store hay, brought in through an opening in the front; and the rear held grains. In addition, the original house was another 1.5 meters wide on the west side --- a space for animals and tools.
Below an old altar in the boys' room are preserved some relics and other reminders of the saint: a pair of his shoes, a standing crucifix (marked LA CROIX DE NOSTRE R.P. VINCENT DE PAUL), a white linen cloth used to bandage his legs, a fragment of a horsehair belt used as an instrument of penance, a red or violet stole said to have been used by him at Folleville, and two small physical relics. All these items came from the original Saint Lazare and were given to the Berceau by Father Jean Baptiste Etienne, superior general of the Congregation. A copy of a letter written to Vincent's mother, 17 February 1610, recalls that she most probably received it here. The furnishings of the house are original.
The place where Vincent's birth is commemorated is now found under the sloping roof in the back of the house, where people come to pray and often to celebrate the Eucharist. Because the positioning of the house has been changed, this spot is where the second room on the left, the parents' bedroom, was originally located.
The kind of countryside that Vincent lived in during his childhood was not the extensive pine forest of the landes that one sees today, since it did not exist in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The forest was planted in the nineteenth century to inhibit the spread of wind-blown sands from the Atlantic shore. Formerly, the Landes were very sandy and easily became marshy. The area of Pouy is located in a bend of the river Adour, still an area somewhat sandy, which often has flooded the pastures. This area, more than any other, resembles the land as it was in Vincent's day.
The family certainly owned what every small landowner had in the region: a farmyard for cows, pigs and sheep. The Ranquines property was very small, only 30 by 34 meters, but enough for a house, garden and one or more outbuildings. North of the property where the large chapel now stands was a commons, used by the family and their neighbors. Following the usage of the small pastures of olden times, Vincent used to walk along the dusty paths, his eyes fixed on the animals confided to his care, and carrying his provisions in a sack. It is not certain that he returned home every evening. There were few large stretches of pasture, and so he would have had to go looking for more fertile land.
The De Paul diet differed markedly from that followed today. There were no potatoes, tomatoes, corn, even beans, since these originated in the New World and were only then being gradually brought into Spain. Instead, his family ate the local produce: carrots, turnips, broad beans, lentils, and even millet, at the time an important grain. In general, eating meat was not common. They would also have had access to birds (ducks, geese, pigeons, etc.) and their eggs, fish and small animals such as rabbits. Wine and cider were in current use as drinks. Milk was normally served only to babies, and water was often unsafe. Vincent recounted years later to the Daughters of Charity, how the people of the Landes would eat: They are very plain in their eating. the majority are often content with bread and soup ... In the region where I come from, we eat a small grain called millet, which we cook in a pot. At mealtime, it is poured into a bowl, and the family gathers around to eat, and afterward, they go out to work (Conference 13). I am the son of a tiller of the soil. I was fed as country people are fed and now that I Superior of the Mission, shall I grow conceited and wish to be treated like a gentleman? (Conference 85). He also recalled that the use of cider (instead of wine) was common in the region and good for the health.
All his life Vincent showed the qualities typical of peasants: good sense, patience, confidence in Providence, hard work and modesty. Like Jesus himself, Vincent was born among humble workers, and always demonstrated love for the poor, the little ones.
The first accounts of veneration for Vincent in his native area date from 1706 and come from his relatives. Louis Depaul, a farmer at Pouy and owner of Ranquines (mentioned above) and Jean Depaul, another grandnephew, aged 74, lived at Saint-Paul-lès-Dax. He testified, perhaps with some sourness: I have heard it said by my father that he went to meet Monsieur Vincent while he lived in Paris, to ask his advice about a promise of marriage he had made to a girl whom he had abused. Monsieur Vincent told him that he was obliged to go and marry her. And he gave my father on his return only 10 écus and a letter for Monsieur de Saint Martin. Monsieur Vincent never gave us anything to help lift us out of the low condition in which we were living. Perhaps referring to the same period, Vincent himself admitted to his confreres that some of his relatives were forced to live on alms (Conference 148, 1656) and still do (Conference 204, 1659). This condition might easily have been caused by the problems of the Fronde. During this time, some of Vincent's friends helped them, as he did himself.
Vincent also made a family visit, most likely in 1624. He recalled in it a conference to the missionaries on 2 May 1659. I'm afraid of becoming attached like that to my relatives, I said. And in fact, after spending eight to ten days with them to instruct them in the way of salvation and to steer them away from the desire for possessions --- even to telling them they should expect nothing from me and that, even if I had chests of gold and silver, I would not give them anything because a priest who has anything owes it to God and to the poor --- the day I departed, it was so painful for me to leave my poor relatives that I did nothing but weep all the way back, and wept almost constantly. Those tears were followed by the thought of doing something to assist them and to better their situation, to give this to one, that to another. My mind was deeply moved and I was sharing in this way what I had and what I did not have. I say this to my own shame, and I say it because perhaps God allowed that to make me understand better the importance of the Gospel counsel of which we're speaking. This troubling passion for improving the lot of my brothers and sisters plagued me for three months; it was a constant weight on my poor mind. In the midst of that, when I found myself somewhat free, I prayed that God would be pleased to deliver me from that temptation, and I prayed to Him so much about this that He finally had pity on me and took away those tender feelings for my relatives. And, even though they had to ask for alms, and still do, He gave me the grace of entrusting them to His Providence and to consider them happier than if they had been well off (Conference 204).
He perhaps referred to the same event in Letter 1481: When parting time comes, there is nothing but sorrow and tears, and what is worse, the servants of God are often left with nothing but distractions. Their minds are full of images and sentiments very little in harmony with their state, and they sometimes lose the attachment they had for their spiritual exercises. It should be noted, however, that Vincent made a will three years after his visit and disposed of his property in and around Dax by giving it all to his family (Coste, Document 27).
Besides this visit, he also sent his confreres to give missions in the area. At least one is known from the year 1652.
The great oak tree called Lou Bielh Cassou (the old oak) in Gascon, is centuries old. The fall of one of its huge branches in 1939 allowed a piece of its wood to be sent for analysis to Bordeaux. The conclusions of specialists showed a planting date of between 1200 and 1230. Young Vincent certainly rested in its shade, although it was not part of the family property, since the road passed it on either side.
At the Revolution, agitators tried to burn it. The tree's worst enemies, however, have been indiscreet pilgrims who took away bits of the bark as a souvenir of the saint. We have such important witnesses as the duchess of Berry and the Duchess of Angoulême. Even a spiritual son of Saint Vincent, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, wrote about events of 2-3 December 1852: I send you, my dear friend, a leaf from a blessed tree. It will dry out in the book where you leave it, but charity will never wither in your heart ... I saw in it a symbol of the foundations of Saint Vincent de Paul. They never seem held to the earth by anything human, and they nevertheless have been triumphing for centuries and growing amid revolutions. The pastor of the place had an entire branch cut down for the founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, destined for the General Council of that society. The Vincentians at Buglose gave a cross and rosary to Pius IX in 1856, using wood from the tree. Such treatment clearly compromised the future of the oak. In earlier days a retired soldier was stationed to guard it. Protective enclosures were built in 1824 and 1857. In recent years a barrier has been build around it and the tree reinforced with iron rings and cement plugs. It measures about twelve and a half meters (thirty-eight feet) in circumference.
In 1868 the oak was believed to be dying, especially since someone had set a fire in it in 1865 to rid it of hornets. Fortunately, the son (Lou Hilh in Gascon) is vigorous. This sprout, planted in 1857, is taller than its parent and shades Ranquines. Some acorns have also been taken away and in many countries other descendants of the oak are flourishing.
In 1951 it was decided to make a selection of the best acorns. Experts performed what was called the "marriage of the oak," since they placed a huge white veil over the tree to assure that the tree would have acorns of a pure type. Ceremonies with music and dancing accompanied the event, but, mysteriously, that year, for the first and last time, not a single acorn appeared on the entire tree.
It is certain that oak trees were part of the countryside familiar to Vincent the young boy. Calvet wrote in his biography of the saint: Around each house a clump of oaks developed. They were protection against the west wind a shelter for pigs that fed on the acorns, shade in the summer, and a noble decoration in any season. The account of Vincent placing a small statue of Mary in a fold of the trunk and then praying there, is legendary, and dates only from the nineteenth century.
To respond to the devotion of the faithful after Vincent’s beatification in 1727, a small chapel opened in 1730. At the time of his canonization (16 June 1737), a more spacious chapel was built, probably on the site of his birthplace. Blessed at the end of 1751, it lasted for exactly a century. At that time it gave way to the present chapel. On 6 August 1851, the first stone was laid in the presence of the prefect of the Landes, and the bishop celebrated mass under the old oak. The chapel itself was loosely modeled on the Val de Grace in Paris. Progress in building was slow because of a lack of funds. Contributions from the Vincentians and the Daughters of Charity, together with a national lottery, allowed work to continue. A barely legible inscription over the main door recalls its inauguration thirteen years after it began: ANNO DOMINI MDCCCLXIV DIE XXIV MENSIS APRILIS HOC SACELLUM D.O.M. FUIT SOLEMNITER DEDICATUM 1N MEMORIAM ORTUS S. VINCENTII A PAULO (“On 24 April in the year of Our Lord 1864 this chapel was solemnly dedicated to God in memory of the birthplace of Saint Vincent de Paul.") The architect was initially Jacques Ignace Hittorff who had had designed the great parish church of Saint Vincent in Paris. His elaborate plans were simplified by a disciple, so Gallois, the architect of the Vincentian motherhouse chapel in Paris.
Over the main door of the chapel is a carving of the young Vincent aiding a poor man. The inscription reads QUIS PUTAS PUER ISTE ERIT (“Who do you think this boy will be?"), a citation from Luke 1:66. Above the door is a large statue of the saint similar to that in the Vincentian motherhouse. It shows him in a gesture of openhanded charity. Below are figures of faith, hope and charity, dated 1864. The text, PERTRANSIIT BENEFACIENDO (“He went about doing good"), is a citation from Acts 10:38.
On l4-l5 July 1947, a great fire broke out, destroying several buildings. Among them, the chapel burned and its dome collapsed. Because of the energy of two Vincentian priests, Fathers Pierre and Descamps, and the work of Nazi prisoners of war, it reopened 1 December 1948. A modern painting of Saint Vincent in heaven, with angels, now fills the dome. Various outdoor plaques honor former students of the Berceau who served in the Second World War and Indochina as well as the many more who died in the First World War. Thanks also to the generosity of many donors, especially followers of Vincent, the chapel has taken on new life. The most recent altar, built of Bordeaux limestone, was consecrated 27 November 1980 by the bishop of Aire and Dax.
ln 1980 Victor Feltrin of Paris carved a strong wooden statue of Saint Vincent The same artist did a matching statue of Mary the following year. The inside decoration is relatively sober. The letters SV, either intertwined or separated, are nearly the only specifically Vincentian element in stone. The stained glass windows, dating from 1864, copy closely those in the Vincentian motherhouse, depicting incidents in his life and after his death. The central window behind the main altar depicts Vincent escorted by angels into glory. The transept windows, in the shape of a fan, recall his presumed birth date, 24 April 1576 and the dedication of the chapel, 23 April 1864.
A plaque in the right transept reads; "To the memory of the priests and brothers of the Congregation of the Mission and of the Daughters of Charity of the Berceau of Saint Vincent de Paul, who dedicated themselves to children and youth from 1864 to our days. Their Grateful Students."
The small organ—one manual, seven stops—-was the work of the famous builder Cavaillé-Coll. Jean Baptiste Etienne paid for it personally from his family inheritance, and it was installed in 1873. In 1998, it was renewed and enlarged.
The mission of the Berceau was developed early in the nineteenth century under the inspiration of the prefect of the Landes and the bishop of Aire and Dax. It perpetuates the memory of the saint in his birthplace. At the beginning, it was decided to have all his major works represented here. The first to open was a house for the elderly bereft of resources, and for poor orphans. The elderly would receive proper care, and the orphans would receive education and training. The Vincentians and Daughters of Charity were to assume charge of the work under the responsibility of a board. Frédéric Ozanam spoke enthusiastically of the project, and Napoleon III authorized a national lottery to help accomplish it. The work began in 1864 and received civil recognition the next year. The emperor had assigned a military architect to design the buildings, which explains their style reminiscent of nineteenth-century military barracks from the Paris region. A modern Catholic school adjacent to the old buildings continues the primary and secondary schools begun in the nineteenth century. Its first student was one André Depaul, a distant relative of Vincent.
The hospice became a retirement center and has gradually been modernized. One of the wings admits aged sisters. The active sisters work in the retirement center and bring care to the homes of the needy.
After the other constructions, the Vincentians had a minor seminary built in 1868. It also received émigré Spanish Vincentians in 1869 during a revolution and French Vincentian students during the wars of 1870 and 1939. This seminary graduated some 350 members of the Congregation of the Mission, including seven missionary bishops. The chapel, built in 1934, has several striking stained glass windows, particularly one of Saint John Gabriel Perboyre. After 1971, the building became a diocesan "collège" (a residential secondary school). The priests no longer have responsibility for it but continue as its chaplains. They do the typical Vincentian works and, with the sisters, receive pilgrims through the work of the Vincentian Center, located in two buildings across the road from Ranquines. These are arranged for groups and present exhibits.
III. POUY/SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL
The old name of the village, Pouy, is related to Latin podium or platform, marking an elevated area. The elevation of the village can be seen easily below from the banks of the Adour. There are several other places in France called Pouy, or, more usually, Puy. (Vincent spelled it Poy in Letter 992). In those cases, the name refers to local volcanic hills. Vincent’s Pouy was the center of a rural community, but it was also the seat of an important barony, with rights to dispense justice. One of the judges of Pouy was Monsieur de Comet, who had a home at Préchacq, about five kilometers east of Pouy. The judge received his young relative Vincent into his home in Dax as tutor for his children.
King Charles X approved the change cf name from Pouy to Saint-Vincent-de-Paul on 3 December 1828. To honor its most famous son, the inhabitants of the village had requested the name change, and they changed the title of the patron of the parish to Saint Vincent de Paul at the same time. The name Pouy still persists in some ways, however. (Another village called Saint-Vincent-de—Paul, a few kilometers north of Bordeaux, has no apparent connection with the saint. The history of its naming is obscure).
The old village church, dedicated to Saint Peter in Chains where Vincent and his family worshipped, was demolished in 1913. The baptismal font, a copper bowl set into a carved stone base, comes from that church and is still in use. A marble plaque records Vincent’s baptism there. He received the name Vincent ("the victorious") perhaps because one of his godparents had that name, or more probably out of devotion to Saint Vincent of Xaintes, a martyr, the first bishop of Dax and principal patron saint of the diocese. During his 1624 visit to his home after moving to Paris, he renewed his baptismal vows in that church. Also, his biographer Abelly noted that he recalled his baptismal anniversary regularly and publicly asked pardon of the community on that day for his faults. The date commonly given is 24 April 1581. Vincent most probably made his first communion in this same church. On 15 August 1628, he also acted as godfather in this church to a nephew, also called Vincent de Paul. The modern church seen today was completed in 1924. Vincentians from Buglose were pastors here as well, from 1706 to 1792, and again from 1955 to about 1997.
The modern stained—glass windows narrate events in the life of the Vincent: (1) praying, (2) giving money to a beggar, (3) plowing with oxen, (4) celebrating his first mass, (5) blessing poor men, (6) teaching, (7) ransoming captives [a symbolic depiction], (8) sending out missionaries, (9) with a child, [based on the statue by Alexandre Falguière], (10) taking on the chains of a galley convict, (11) with a bishop and priests, (12) with Ladies and Daughters of Charity, (13) presenting plans for a church, (14) with the pope [a symbolic depiction of the approval of the Congregation], (15) at the deathbed of Louis XIII, (16) his deathbed, (17) taken up in glory. Antoine Fiat, Vincentian superior general, with the mother general of the time, Marie Maurice, donated the elaborate Stations of the Cross. (A marble plaque recalls this donation).
The church has preserved the old wooden panels taken from the high altar of the previous church, the altar Vincent knew. They are: (1) Jesus giving the keys to Peter (recalling the previous dedication to Peter in Chains), (2) the tabernacle and four side panels with scenes from the life of Saint Peter, (3) Saint Paul, with the sword of the spirit (Eph 6:7), (4) a saint—bishop, probably Vincent of Xaintes, (5) God the Father with a globe, and (6) a statue base with the head of an angel. These are placed in the right side altar chapel and above the main door. The large main crucifix also comes from the old church, but it appears to be later than the seventeenth century.
Vincent’s parents were undoubtedly buried in the cemetery by the side of the church, but no trace remains of their graves, probably because of the frequent floods of the Adour. Several Vincentians and Daughters of Charity are buried here in simple graves marked by crosses.
The De Moras house, located to the west of the former presbytery, was probably the "town" house belonging to Vincent’s mother’s family. The name de Moras is widespread in the Landes, with such forms as Morar, Moras, Mauras, Demoras, Dumoras, with and without an s. His mother’s family belonged to the local nobility, and many of his relatives on both sides of the family had held, and would later hold, important positions in the Church and in the state.
The modern post office may be on the site of the home of the saint’s sister, where she moved after her marriage to Monsieur Gregoire. The house was named "Pail1o1e," and the site kept that name for centuries.
The property called Leschine, part of Vincent’s inheritance, is located north of Pouy facing on Route N 124. Its name, however, lives on only in official documents, not on the modern buildings themselves. IV. THE COUNTRYSIDE
The Holy Wood is a two—hectare area of imposing old oaks is located on the banks of the Adour river, on the road from Yzosse. Local tradition claims that the young Vincent forded the river here (there was no bridge until 1897) to pasture his animals. This is impossible to prove, but this oak grove is typical of the area. In the saint’s time, the village carefully maintained an extensive oak forest.
The name Barthes designates the marshy bottomland on the banks of the river Adour. The river Adour rises in the Pyrenees and enters the Atlantic just north of Biarritz. The Barthes is common land, flooded twice a year, and various animals graze on it. During the winter, when the river rises, one can easily form an impression of how the entire area looked in the time of the saint’s boyhood.
A tradition recounted at the canonical inquiry leading to Vincent’s beatification has it that he brought to the local mill the grain that his parents had gathered. It would be ground and served as nourishment for the family and their animals. The pious young Vincent, also according to tradition, sometimes gave of his grain to poor people whom he met on the way. On one occasion he is said to have given all his meager savings to a poor beggar. These two charitable events became part of the standard series of pictures detailing his life.
Today the mill is on private property on the N 124 west of Pouy, and no longer in working condition, being unnecessary in modern times. The millstream runs out of the pond, mentioned below.
V. BUGLOSE, GOURBERA
On the busy route D27 leading to the shrine of Buglose is a small oratory, Our Lady of the Brier. From the year 1622 the faithful had begun making pilgrimages to Buglose. Beginning in 1803 the pastor of Saint-Paul-les-Dax, Father Lesbazeilles, erected a series of Stations of the Cross along the road. These stations disappeared over time, but the remaining one led to the construction of a small oratory. In 1876 Eugene Boré, superior general, had it restored to mark the presumed tercentenary of the saint’s birth. The statue of Mary placed here copies that of the Miraculous Medal. In 1947 the oratory and its grounds were repaired. In 1974 the little shrine was again completely renovated. Since brier (bruyére) grew there in the sandy soil, the title Notre Dame de Bruyère (Our Lady of the Brier, or Heather) was given to the oratory in that year.
The creek running to the Pouy mill takes its various names from the properties through which it runs. At the place where the road to Buglose crosses it, it is called the De Paul Creek. The bridge is an old stone construction, visible at least from its west side. The creek runs into a pond (Étang de la Glaciére). It seems possible that the young De Paul children came here to swim or fish. The pond has been developed into a public park. Its outlet, called the Mill Stream, runs into the old rural mill mentioned above.
In the village of Buglose are an old home and a series of apartments called the Quartier de Paul. The building on the east side, located at present behind the Hôtel des Pèlerins, is called Paul. It has been proposed that the creek and the house gave its name to the family. Since the name Paul is so old in the Dax area, however, this supposition seems unlikely. Nevertheless, it shows that the name is widespread in the region.
Our Lady 0f Buglose is a pilgrimage site of the Landes dating from the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was not here during Vincent’s childhood. A chapel was built here in 1622, which the bishop dedicated on 16 May of that year. After giving a mission for the galley convicts in Bordeaux, Vincent returned to see his family (his mother probably had died before this time). During that visit, and shortly after the dedication of the shrine, as his biographer Collet relates, Vincent came here on pilgrimage. He walked barefoot from the Pouy church, celebrated mass at Buglose, and shared a meal with his family on the day before his departure. Vincent, however, did not mention this visit in his own recollections of this visit home, dated probably to the spring of 1624.
The present church (finished in 1864) has the rank of minor basilica. It houses the old pilgrimage statue of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. She is seated, crowned, holding the child in her lap. The child, in turn, is smiling, his hand held up in the traditional gesture of a pontifical blessing. It is said that a poor peasant found the statue as he was plowing. His attention was drawn to it because one of his oxen was licking it clean of the mud that covered it. The heavy stone statue had reportedly been hidden at the time of the wars of religion, about 1570. The people later gave it a name (with Greek roots!) of “ox tongue," Buglose (although Vincent himself spelled it Burglosse in Letter 992). Instead, the name seems of Basque origin. Pierre Coste recounts the great doubt cast on the certain aspects of the story. In any case, Vincent came here. A plaque and a window in the church, showing him saying mass, recall his visit. The text below the window reads; "How Saint Vincent de Paul prayed before the statue of Our Lady of Buglose." Windows elsewhere preserve the story of Vincent coming here as a boy to pray at the ruins of the church allegedly ruined by Huguenots. In fact, there is no evidence for this presumed destruction. It is almost certain that there was no church here before 1620—only a small shrine, perhaps, similar to Our Lady of the Brier.
The church building has recently been restored. The church is known for its large carillon of 60 bells, and it dominates the countryside. Statues of four angels crown the square bell tower. Inside are tombs of the local bishops, as well as commemorative plaques from priests ordained here. Noteworthy, too, are two early woodcarvings placed in the left-side chapel. These show the Vincentians (with diocesan seminarians or priests—known from their typical French collar—and two poor men), and Daughters and Ladies of Charity (with poor children). They are important since that of the missionaries is one of the oldest known depictions of Vincentians. The elaborate Renaissance pulpit comes from a previous church located here. In the right-side chapel are two other polychrome carvings, depicting Mary Magdalene in the grotto of La-Sainte-Baume, near Marseilles, where she is said to have received communion from an angel.
Behind the church is the Chapel of Miracles. This old chapel marks the original pilgrimage site. A plaque behind the chapel, now incorporated into a large outdoor shrine, reads: "In 1623 [=1624] in this chapel Saint Vincent de Paul came to pray with his family." Near the chapel is a small spring with the two following notices: "Here from 1570 to 1620 was hidden the statue of O[ur] L[ady], which is found in the basilica." "Miraculous spring of Our Lady of Buglose." A large statue of Saint Vincent is found nearby, as is the Synod Cross, a large wooden cross placed there in 1993 to recall the synod held for the diocese of Aire and Dax.
In 1647 the bishop of Dax asked Vincent to send missionaries here. He was unable to send any, but his successor sent some in 1706. To the left of the main entrance of the basilica is the large old community house where the Vincentians lived during many years of service at Buglose. The Vincentians gave missions and retreats from this house, known locally as "the monastery," until the Revolution. At the same time, since they were the pastors of Pouy and cared for the chapel at the Berceau, the devotion of the Buglose Vincentians for their founder encouraged veneration for Vincent de Paul at Pouy. Their community house is still in use as a pilgrim center and a residence for the diocesan priests who now staff the shrine. Buglose, like the Berceau, is part of the commune of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.
West of Buglose lies the small village of Gourbera, with some 200 inhabitants. Near here are the remains of the mill of Pouymartet. Close by are scattered remains of a brick building. This is believed to have been the priory of Pouymartet that formerly undertook the care of poor and sick pilgrims on their way to the Spanish shrine of Santiago de Compostela. Etienne de Paul, a likely relative of Vincent’s, was its prior, and may have been instrumental in teaching Vincent the basics of his education before he went to Dax. If this relative resided there, which seems unlikely, the young Vincent would have gone directly from Ranquines through the fields for lessons with him. Since the mission of this priory was to care for the poor and the sick, Vincent may have received here a taste for this kind of service. The Pouyrnartet hospital continued in use until the late eighteenth century.
Dax, where Vincent attended school after learning the rudiments, was a walled town. Some of its ramparts remain today, built on foundations from the ancient Romans who first built them. That these walls still stand testifies to the vigilance of its inhabitants, who kept Dax virtually free of the various phases of the religious wars during the sixteenth century. Vincent and his schoolmates certainly walked over them. One of the town gates is named Porte Saint Vincens, not after Vincent de Paul but after Vincent of Xaintes, the town’s first bishop. An ancient thermal spring, the Fontaine Chaude, called Nèhe, gave the city its name (de aquis - D’Acqs - Dax).
Dax today, with nearly 20,000 inhabitants, is still famous for its many thermal springs treating rheumatism and other disorders. It is the second most popular thermal town in France, the first being Vichy. These springs attracted the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, his daughter Julia Augusta, as well as countless others. The Musée de Borda, named after a local scientist and benefactor of the Congregation of the Mission, has a collection of local prehistoric and historic relics and shows Roman ruins under nearby buildings. The city bullring demonstrates the area’s close ties with Spain, since Dax was an important junction for merchants and travelers using the passes of the Pyrenees.
In Dax, on the site where the post office and police station are now located, was a Franciscan friary. These religious had a collège to receive boarding students, who paid about 60 livres a year. The students included boys from the country whose parents wanted to assure a secondary education. Vincent came there at age twelve and spent probably four years living first with the Franciscans and then with M. de Comet, while attending classes at the municipal school adjacent to the friary. We know one incident from those years that he related to his confreres in a conference on obedience, 19 December 1659: I remember that when I was a young boy my father brought me with him into town. Because he was badly clothed and limped a little, I was ashamed of walking with him and of admitting that he was my father. He recounted a similar story to Madame de Lamoignon: I remember that once, at the school where I was a student, someone came to tell me that my father, a poor peasant, was asking to see me. I refused to go to speak with him. In this I committed a great sin (Coste, Life, 1, 14).
On Rue des Fusillés is the family home of Monsieur de Comet. This has been recently restored and on the outside bears a plaque, dedicated in 1960, recalling the presence of the young Vincent here. Monsieur de Comet was an attorney at Dax and judge of Pouy, and perhaps a cousin of Vincent’s. He lodged him in his home and confided to him the education of his children, while also giving him time for his studies. Monsieur de Comet served at the courts, still located a few doors north of the home, although now in newer buildings. Young Monsieur Depaul also knew the old bishop’s residence, now the city hall. Along the Rue Cazade lived his cousins Saint Martin. In 1658 one of these discovered Vincent’s intriguing letter relating his Tunisian captivity. He had written the letter to this man’s father-in-law more than fifty years previously.
The old Gothic cathedral of Sainte Marie, dating from the fourteenth century, fell into ruins and was taken down in 1638-1645. In Vincent’s time, the bishop worked to rebuild it, and Vincent was able to get Louis XIV to donate a large sum to help with construction. Rebuilding started only in 1694, however, and it was consecrated in 1755. In 1894, when the facade and towers were completed, the Portal of the Apostles, the main (west) door from the previous cathedral, was installed inside in a transept. The present cathedral has some nineteenth-century souvenirs (statue, windows, painting) of Saint Vincent de Paul, as well as some other remnants of the cathedral that Vincent knew, such as the choir stalls and the pulpit.
The Hospital of Saint Eutrope, where the Daughters came in 1712, also has Vincentian connections in that Sister Marguerite Rutan (b. 1736), its superior, was accused of anti-Revolutionary activities. (now Hôpital Thermal, rue Labadie) This Daughter of Charity was imprisoned in the Carmelite convent with other religious (Rue des Carmes) and then received a show trial in the former bishop’s residence. That same day, 9 April 1794, she was paraded in a cart through the city to the place of execution. A priest, also condemned, was tied back to back to her during this spectacle. They were guillotined in the square facing what is now the Hôtel Splendid. Her burial place could never be identified. The cause for her beatification was introduced, but it has not progressed.
An ancient monastery enclosed the tomb of Saint Vincent of Xaintes. A new church, built in 1893, replaces it. lt also displays remains from the Gallo—Roman period. Vincent regarded Vincent of Xaintes as his patron and honored him on 1 September, his feast. (Another namesake, Saint Vincent Ferrer, he regarded as secondary patron, keeping his feast as well.) The location of Xaintes is unknown; it may have been the city of Saintes or even the part of present-day Dax where the bishop was martyred.
After the Revolution, the Congregation returned to the Landes from which it had been expelled. The Vincentians received a home with a chapel, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and inaugurated Our Lady of Pouy in Dax on 21 November 1845. In 1880 a newer building was finished. For many years it was the major seminary and/or novitiate for the Congregation in France. The building still stands and the chapel can be visited. Of the original small chapel, only the area around the present altar remains. The present chapel holds many memories for Vincentians from other parts of the world as well as France, since so many studied and were ordained here. During the last years of the seminary’s presence, paintings in Byzantine style were completed in one of the transepts and in the back of the chapel, where they represent in symbols the episode of the peasant at Gannes, among others. The superior of the time had wished that the artist would cover the church with these paintings, but events overtook his plans. The chapel includes tombs of the Borda family, the former owners of the property.
Saint Jean Gabriel Perboyre was honored here and the stained glass windows recall him as well as Saints Francis Regis Clet and Louise de Marillac.
The building, apart from the chapel and library, now serves as a hotel for guests taking the thermal cure. Adjoining the property, further up the hill --- the pouy from which the seminary took its name --- is the present retirement home for Vincentians of the Toulouse province. Fronting the home is Rue des Lazaristes, while on the side is the Rue du Père Perboyre.
A small community of Christianized Jews of Spanish origin (Marranos) existed in Dax in Vincent’s period. Interestingly, almost nothing is recorded in Vincent’s correspondence or biographies concerning his observations on contemporary Jews.