An historic Catholic location

The site of our international Catholic boarding school for boys is an idyllic French collegiate institution, succesively the site of a Roman villa, a thirteenth century monastery, and then a junior seminary, founded in 1802, a few short years after the terrible massacres of Catholics throughout the Vendée region. Its impressive buildings overlook the parish church of a small village renowned for its religious fervour and back on to rolling French coutryside.

The original founder, the Venerable Louis-Marie Baudouin, is commemorated with a memorial chapel - part of the College complex - and by a stained glass window in the parish church. As well as founding the Seminary, he also founded two successful teaching orders in the village.

The lifetime of apostolic activity of Père Baudouin followed on from the blackest page in the history books of France, when Vendéens paid a heavy price for their loyalty to Church and king, particularly in the years 1794-1796.

It is said that the money for the construction of the boys’ seminary came in part from a hoard of gold coins belonging to the Royalist general, François Athanase de Charette de la Contrie, who had been shot in March 1796. Before his death, he had reportedly arranged for his vast wealth to be buried in the nearby forest of Grasla where the entire populations of villages such as Chavagnes were hiding from the massacring Republican troops. One of his officers is said to have recovered the treasure on the cessation of hostilities, and used it for the construction and repair of several churches and other religious buildings.

The people of Chavagnes and of the whole Vendée region still remember and honour the remarkable courage of the ordinary Catholics of those days, and the apostolic zeal of their great priests in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: men such as St Louis de Montfort and Père Baudouin.

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