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Jean de Watteville, the adventurer abbot

Watteville's grave | Malebre / CC-BY-SA
Abbey Homicide Treason Benedictine Jean de Watteville Baume-les-Messieurs abbey

An eventful life

In Baume abbey, we had a very particular abbot, in the 17th century! Well, let me introduce him… Jean de Watteville, that’s him (Juan, because his noble family was Spanish, born in Switzerland) was born in Besançon in 1613.

Recruited in the Burgundian Regiment when he was a teen, he was violent, pretty nervous.

So one day, he killed an officer of the queen of Spain. Damn!! He had to run away and hid out in Paris.

And suddenly, after hearing a sermon about Hell during the Mass, he was scared: beware, save your soul, Watteville, or…

He immediately left Paris and became a monk in Bonlieu abbey. But his past life missed him… Gosh, the liberty! So he escaped each time he had the occasion, to raise hell. Well, what a strange monk!

One night, the abbot caught him in the fact, while he was climbing over the wall will a ladder: surprised, Jean killed him. One more time, he had to run away: this time, he went to Spain.

Duels, turban and harem

But, here we go again, Jean led a riotous existence: murders, duels, robberies… He frightened all the country and finally killed a Spanish nobleman.

And… Jean had to leave again. From Spain, he went to Constantinople, changed religion and wore the turban; he became a pasha!

Hey, it looks like the story of the pasha of Bonneval, isn’t it? In short, he stayed there 20 years (with harems and slaves), was in the war between Turkish and Venetians, then he betrayed the Turkish in order to give all his informations to the Venetians.

The Pope gave him his absolution and he went back in France… in Franche-Comté!

Pretty ladies and lots of horsies

There, he became abbot of Baume-les-Messieurs, where he had “everywhere lots of retinue, big food, a nice pack and nice friends”, wrote Saint-Simon in his "Memories" (part 3).

He had his own harem in the Eastern, he did the same thing near the abbey, in the castle of Saint-Lothain, on the pretext of founding a school to educate young noble ladies.

And he had plenty of favourites… He also founded a stud farm, with the most gorgeous Spanish and Turkish horses: horses he called Sultan, Grand Vizier… Aaaah, he was happy, here… so happy that he’d sell his Franche-Comté to king Louis XIV!

He was harsh with his own people, ruling on his estate like a lord with his villeins. You know what? He forced the inhabitants of la Baume to raise the “Crançot ladders”, a path dug in the rock, near the abbey!

Jean died here in 1702, at the age of 89. We still can see his grave in the church. We read: ITALUS ET BURGUNDUS IN ARMIS GALLUS IN ALBIS IN CURIA RECTUS PRESBYTER, ABBAS, ADEST, which means “He took up arms as an Italian and a Burgundian, he was French as a religious, honest, priest and abbot.”

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!