In 1806, the Pope brought together a few cardinals to discuss a burning question: had Saint Napoleon really existed? On what date was he to be celebrated? Should the Church pray for him and have people pray for him? For in the recently proclaimed Empire of the French, the bishops were calling on the faithful to celebrate a new feast day, Saint Napoleon’s Day, on 15 August, the day of the Emperor’s birth and the feast of the Assumption. By imposing a new saint on the calendar, offering him for veneration by the citizens, the State affirms its own sacredness through the glorious body of the sovereign. In doing so, Saint Napoleon was also the object of partisan appropriation and provoked religious opposition. This book, based on unpublished archives, sheds new light on the relationship between state and church in post-revolutionary France and is an original contribution to the analysis of the national political imagination.
Table of Contents
I – The raison d’État: the invention of Saint Napoleon
– Politics first!
– Praying for the Emperor
– The political decision: the decree of 19 February 1806
– Religious sanction: the indult of Cardinal Caprara
– The right saint
– De Profundis: the tomb of the Emperor
II – Saint Napoleon: the Church restored to reason
– Had there been a Saint Neopolis?
– The meeting of a particular congregation
– A compromise between religious and national holidays
– Should Napoleon be venerated?
– Saint Napoleon: the quintessence of fanaticism?
III – Saint Napoleon, Patron Saint of the Nation
– From saint to myth
– The legend of a saint
– A Roman saint
– The patron saint of France
– A patron saint of warriors
– From Saint Napoleon to Holy Napoleon
Document n° 1 > Lettre à l’Empereur au sujet des anniversaires des victoires nationales, 4 janvier 1806 [etter to the Emperor concerning the anniversaries of national victories, 4 January 1806]
Document n° 2 > Rapport présenté à Sa Majesté impériale par le ministre des cultes, relativement à l’établissement des fêtes anniversaires ; l’une du rétablissement de la Religion, l’autre de la victoire d’Austerlitz, 19 février 1806 [Report presented to His Imperial Majesty by the Minister of Religious Affairs, relating to the establishment of anniversary celebrations; one for the re-establishment of Religion, the other for the victory at Austerlitz, 19th February 1806]
Document n° 3 > Décret Eximium Catholicae du cardinal Caprara pour la fête de l’Assomption et de la Saint Napoléon, 1er mars 1806 [ Decree Eximium Catholicae of Cardinal Caprara for the feast of the Assumption and of Saint Napoleon, 1st March 1806]
Document n° 4 > Instruction du cardinal Caprara sur la fête de saint Napoléon, sur la procession et sur l’action de grâce, et sur la bénédiction papale, 21 mai 1806 (traduction française) [Instruction by Cardinal Caprara on the feast of Saint Napoleon, on the procession and thanksgiving, and on the papal blessing, 21 May 1806, French translation]
Document n° 5 > Rapport à l’Empereur sur l’établissement du chapitre de Saint-Denis, 29 mai 1806 [Report to the Emperor on the establishment of the chapter of Saint-Denis, 29th May 1806]
Document n° 6 > Textes liturgiques utilisés par les évêques [Liturgical texts used by the bishops]
► Consult the publisher’s website here.
► This book is a greatly expanded version of an article published in 2015 in Napoleonica. La Revue of the Fondation Napoléon.
This work is published under the label “2021 Année Napoléon”.