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Vincentian Missionaries (cont.)

The Congregation of the Mission, founded in 1625 by Vincent de Paul (1581-1660), was at the outset little more than a handful of clerics who travelled the rural areas around Paris with a view to helping the poor and providing assistance to the local parish priests. For a while, they had a hard time establishing the relevance of their activities to the papacy, which in the late 1620s was more preoccupied with the political and religious turmoil of Protestant southern France than with the Catholic Parisian countryside. It took Vincent de Paul and his collaborators seven years, three petitions and much lobbying in Rome to have their congregation formally confirmed by the Holy See. Less than four decades later, however, what had started as a small-scale project of religious revival in rural France expanded into a complex organization with residences all over Europe, close ties with the Roman Curia, and missions in Tunis and Algiers, Madagascar, Ireland, Scotland, and Poland.

The correspondence of Vincent de Paul and the most important papers of the Congregation of the Mission have received a fair amount of attention from scholars and have been published in several languages and editions. Largely unknown, however, remain the letters of other members of the congregation, as well as third-party documents containing references to Vincent de Paul’s organization—such as the letters exchanged between the papacy and the nuncios in France, or the minutes of meetings debating related topics in the Roman Curia.

This collection of sources aims to fill that gap by drawing attention to the wealth of documents related to the history of the Congregation of the Mission that are available in the Vatican archives. It may prove useful for readers with a wide variety of interests: from Vincentian studies, to French religious history and the Catholic Reformation, to the politics and administration of papal institutions in the seventeenth century. Students and scholars of the Ottoman periphery, the colonization of Madagascar, or the religious history of Ireland and Scotland will be glad to find records of reports containing vivid descriptions of life in those parts of the world, many of which have not been published or used in scholarly literature before. For researchers who plan to examine the listed documents first-hand or wish to work further on the subject, this database may serve as an archival inventory and guide.