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Grenoble | In the Footsteps of De La Salle | The Brothers of the Christian Schools

Changing Winds

This is the city in the South of France that became the base of operations for many of De La Salle's educational activities here.

About Grenoble

Front of College des Bons Enfants

A major city in southern France, Grenoble became especially familiar to De La Salle in his later years.

He made two journeys to the south of France, walking most of the way.

  1. He visited the Brothers he had assigned to open new schools.
  2. He wanted to remove himself from difficult situations in Paris, convinced that this was the best thing that he could do for the Brothers.

He was eventually called back to Paris, much to his reluctance, in order to resume his role as Superior.

For the most part, De La Salle remained in seclusion during his 10 month stay here during the winter of 1713-1714.

First School in Grenoble

The first Brothers' school in Grenoble was opened in 1708 at the request of Fr. de Saleon, a former seminarian at St. Sulpice, eventual director of Parmenie, and good friend of De La Salle.

At either end of the Rue St. Laurent is the Church of St. Laurent and the Convent/Museum of the Visitation (St. Marie en Haut).

From the school in the same street of St. Laurent, De La Salle would have taken the pupils to the Church of St. Laurent and to the Church of St. Andre across the river.

Visit to Grande Chartreuse

In this crisis period in his life, De La Salle, by this time in Grenoble, decided to make a retreat at the Grande Chartreuse founded in 1084 by St. Bruno. The actual buildings date from 1676. The monks were expelled in 1903 only to return in 1941. The Carthusians had a special meaning for De La Salle because St. Bruno, their founder, had been, like himself a canon of Reims Cathedral. De La Salle, with a companion, sought anonymity in the monastery but his holiness betrayed him as a Brother Patrice, in a deposition written for the beatification process, testified. During a visit in 1781, the Brothers were told that a lapse of 66 years had not effaced the memory of De La Salle whose holiness had so struck them.

And De La Salle had only spent three days here.

40 Rue St. Laurent

In 1931, a plaque was mounted on the front of the building at 40 Rue St. Laurent in Grenoble which still identifies his hideaway:

"In this house St John Baptist de la Salle, founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and organizer of primary teaching in France, taught in 1713."

While it may have been far away from De La Salle's home territory in northern France, Grenoble became a refuge of sorts for him, and the place where he could work on his writings (having some of them published).

There is an old spiral granite stairway, a wooden balcony overlooking an inner courtyard and a small room in the recess of the isolated tower. "The least comfortable and most remote room in the house," as Blain says.

De La Salle Retreats to Nearby Parmenie for Health

It was in Grenoble that De La Salle wrote a new edition of "The Duties of a Christian" and made public his support for Rome against Quesnel. Once again, De La Salle underwent the grill-cure for his rheumatism. We are told that during his convalescence, the whole of Grenoble became concerned about his recovery.

His close friend, Fr. de Saleon, then encouraged De La Salle to make a retreat at a place called Parmenie.

De La Salle Sends Word to Brothers North

In 1713, De La Salle sent the director of Grenoble north in order to sort out some problems there and receive news of the Brothers. De La Salle took his place in class (probably for two weeks) and in the above mentioned deposition we are told that everyone was struck with the piety and devotion of De La Salle.

Mass at the Convent of Sisters of Visitation

Bearing in mind that most Masses for children would have been celebrated by the parish priests, De La Salle often said Mass in the convent.

The foundation stone of the convent was laid by Francis de Sales and the chapel was completed in 1662, the year of his canonization. All the decorations in the well-adorned chapel are just as De La Salle saw them. Regrettably, the chapel is no longer used for religious services but as a splendid concert hall.

The convent is now incorporated as part of the museum. According to Blain, De La Salle celebrated Mass in this convent chapel.

It is a 15-minute walk from the convent/museum to the Church of St. Andre, across the river. One would descend the steps from the museum, cross the bridge, and then turn right for a few yards along the Quai Stephane Jairy, and then left into the Place de Berulle and through the Rue Cujus. Turning right onto the Rue de Palais, the Church of St. Andre will be seen across the plaza ahead.