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Saint-Vincent old church in Mâcon: naughty sparrows, saint Napoleon

Detail | Libriothecaire / CC-BY-SA
Cathedral Festivities Animals Napoleon I St-Vincent old church in Mâcon

Relics and lots of saints

This is the vestige of the old cathedral St-Vincent, destroyed during the French Revolution: the porch, two octagonal towers and a bay.

Dedicated first to apostles Pierre and Barthélémy, then placed under the protection of saints Gervais and Protais, they finally chose saint Vincent as patron saint in 543, when king of France Childebert came back from Spain with the saint’s relics, he put in the church of Mâcon.

Plundered by the Saracens in 732, destroyed by a fire in 742 then by the army of Lothaire in 960… phew, the cathedral had hard times!

The current porch dates back to the 12th century, a time where king Philip Augustus allowed people to fortify the cathedral. In the 13th c., they started to raise several chapels… 23 more precisely!

They finally improved the image of St-Vincent in the beginning of the 17th century, with important restoration works.

But with all that successive alterations, the church soon started to collapse! The restoration was a huuuge work… so they preferred to destroy the building in March 1799!

Naughty birds!

In the middle of the 11th century, the cathedral was completely invaded by sparrows! They nested everywhere and even pooped on the priests during the Mass!

And their little piercing shrieks, amplified by the church’s volume, made people completely crazy…

Bishop Landry de Berzé (maybe a parent of famous troubadour of Berzé-le-Châtel, who knows?) excommunicated them and threatened them.

Oh, the excommunication seemed pretty stiff, because birds, impressed, flew away without further ado. And they never came back!

The tradition even says if one sparrow came in the cathedral, he immediately died, eek!

The book Guide de la Bourgogne et du Lyonnais mystérieux (editions Tchou) adds this excommunication practice made on animals was made during all the Middle-Ages, in Mâcon: even on slugs…

Saint Napoleon, pray for us

Saint-Vincent used to be call… Saint-Napoleon. Hey, does this saint really exist? Of course, yes!

In fact, pope Pius VII’s legate, a man called Giovanni-Battista Caprara, founded it in the beginning of the 19th century. This name day was celebrated since 1805, on August 15th, more precisely.

They celebrated it until the Napoleonic Empire’s fall, then it reappeared under the reign of Napoleon III.

By the way, Napoleon I came in Mâcon in 1805! He even gave a big sum of money in order to rebuild the cathedral: so, that’s why they dedicated it to saint Napoleon, at that time, to thank the emperor!

About the the author

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