Summer Series: The Pious Establishments of France in Italy (4)

July 26, 2022
Facade of St. Yves des Bretons Church

The primary vocation of this institution, in accordance with the testamentary provisions of its numerous legatees, is to maintain the religious communities which serve its five churches (community of St. Louis, convent and rectorate of the Trinité des Monts, the national chapel of France in Loreto). Fourth part: St. Yves des Bretons.

St. Yves des Bretons Church

On the site of the current church of St. Yves des Bretons there already existed, at the beginning of the 7th century, a church and a monastery called St. André de Marmoris.

Around the middle of the 15th century, Alain de Coëtivy, a Breton who had become Cardinal Archbishop of Avignon, obtained from Pope Nicolas V the concession of this church in favor of the Breton community in Rome. This concession was confirmed by his successor, Callixte III, by a bull of 1455.

Restored in the middle of the 16th century, the church was joined to that of St. Louis of the French in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

In 1790, faced with the civil constitution of the clergy and the secularization of ecclesiastical property, Pope Pius VI instructed Cardinal de Bernis, French ambassador to the Holy See, to group together the French religious establishments in Rome and place them under his guardianship. A French foundation was born: the Pious Establishments of France in Rome and Loreto.

But the church of St. Yves des Bretons was gradually abandoned during the course of the 19th century, and the initial church was demolished in 1875. A new church was immediately rebuilt by the architects Filippo Chiari, then Luca Carimini. It is smaller in size and is incorporated into a new Pious Establishments residential building.

A complete restoration of the interior of the church took place in 2012-2013 with the assistance of the Regional Council of Brittany and the Heritage Foundation.

St. Yves Héloury de Kermartin

“Near Tréguier in Brittany, in the year 1303, St. Yves, priest and confessor, who, in his official post administered justice without respect of persons, favored harmony, defended for the love of Christ the causes of orphans, widows, and the poor, and welcomed the destitute into his home.” (Roman Martyrology)

Son of a Breton knight, Yves was orphaned at a very young age and was raised by his mother. At the University of Paris, he studied to become a priest, and obtained a master's degree and a doctorate in theology, as well as in law.

Having completed his legal studies at the prestigious faculty of Orléans, he returned to his native Brittany, where he was appointed parish priest of Trédrez, as well as official, i.e., the ecclesiastical judge, in Tréguier.

Strongly marked by Franciscan fiars’ witness of poverty, he took care to share his resources with the poorest. His house, the Minihy manor, quickly became a place of welcome and care for the poorest.

As a judge, he assumed his functions in a spirit of conciliation and justice and, free of charge, becomes the adviser or defender of the penniless litigants, keeping, under the sometimes acerbic attacks of his colleagues opposite, a joyful evenness of temper.

Faithful to the example of the saints, to a life of prayer centered on the Eucharist, and the study of Sacred Scripture, he also devoted himself to preaching, often in several parishes on the same day, and to spiritual assistance. They called him “the holy priest.” After his death, he became the object of a very fervent popular veneration, in Brittany and well beyond.

Interior of St. Yves des Bretons Church