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The reliquary of the Holy Ampoule

Let us tell you the story of the Holy Ampoule, and discover how the kings of the Restoration revived the monarchy through the image of Clovis.

The return of tradition

During the French Revolution, the original reliquary and much of the balsam were destroyed by Conventionnel Rühl one day in October 1793, at the foot of the statue of Louis XV in the Place Royale in Reims. Nothing could be more symbolic than this anti-royalist act!

Later, Louis XVIII planned to be crowned in Reims. However, his failing health, the foreign occupation and the kingdom's financial difficulties prevented him from doing so.

Charles X, in his turn, a devout reactionary and attached to the Ancien Régime, did not fail, in a speech given on December 22, 1824, to express the same desire:

" I want the ceremony of my coronation to conclude the first session of my reign. Gentlemen, you will attend this ceremony. There, prostrate at the foot of the same altar where Clovis received the holy anointing, and in the presence of the One who judges peoples and kings, I will renew my oath to uphold and enforce the laws of the State and the institutions granted by my brother the King; I will thank divine providence for having deigned to use me to repair the latest misfortunes of my people, and I will beseech it to continue to protect this beautiful France that I am proud to govern.

Détail du reliquaire de la Sainte Ampoule

© Pascal Lemaître / Centre des monuments nationaux

The coronation of Charles X in 1825

The Holy Ampoule did not disappear completely when Rühl destroyed it...

Fragments may have been salvaged by local residents who witnessed the scene and stored them in Reims Cathedral.

Another hypothesis: the constitutional priest Jules-Armand Seraine and a municipal officer, Philippe Hourelle, recovered some of the contents of the Holy Ampoule and hid them.

A man by the name of Louis Champagne Prévoteau is also said to have collected two glass fragments from the ampoule, on which remnants of the balsam remained.

A new reliquary

In 1819, Jean-Charles de Coucy, Archbishop of Reims, commissioned the king's goldsmith Jean-Charles Cahier to create a reliquary to house these remains.

Completed in 1820 and still kept in the Palais du Tau, it houses the small rock-crystal vial .

This no longer contains the Holy Chrism, which was transferred to a small flask by Cardinal Luçon in 1906.

Did you know? The Balm of the Holy Ampoule has only been used once since the coronation of Charles X, in 1937, at the consecration of the altar in Reims Cathedral, restored after the ravages of the Great War.

La sainte Ampoule et son aiguille (XIXè siècle)

© Pascal Lemaître / Centre des monuments nationaux

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