Monumental Brass Society

Michel de Troye

Date of Brass:


July 2023

In 1711, François Roger de Gaignières sold his entire collection to the King of France. Pierre de Clairambault, the royal genealogist, soon began breaking up the collection, which included manuscripts, portraits and printed material. Much of the collections is today in the Bibliothèque nationale de France and includes drawings of churches, funeral monuments, glass, etc. Included in one volume are drawings of many of the monuments within the church and cloister of the abbey of Saint-Denis (now Saint Denis Basilica Cathedral, as the English language leaflet handed out on entrance to the eastern part of the cathedral, has it). This part of the cathedral houses the necropolis of the kings of France, with a great many medieval effigies representing both those who died during the later medieval period and those retrospective ones ordered in 1263 by Saint Louis plus three important Renaissance tombs of the sixteenth-century. In the crypt there are monuments to the later Bourbon monarchs. Aside from the many effigies of kings, queens, princes and princesses there are other effigies depicting a few of their important subjects, not all of them originating from St Denis, and a small number of incised slabs representing the higher clergy of the abbey.

Included among the drawings of incised slabs made for de Gaignières is that of Michel de Troye, grand prior of the abbey, who was in office before 1480. On 7 October 1498, he presided over the election of Antoine de la Haye to the post of Abbot of St Denis. He died on 7 June 1517 after forty years as grand prior. His slab still survives and is on the south wall of the south transept close to the monument of Francois I and Claude de France. The Latin inscription, as given by Histoire de l'abbaye royale de Saint-Denys en France (1706) reads:

Sub lapide hoc quiescit F. Michael de Troye , nobili genere natus, moribus ipse nobilior : agente virtutum illius opulentia , hujus /

regii cænobii Magnus-Prior annis XL extitit. Ecclesiæ quæ /

zelo semper zelatum corpus habet, Dominus animam excipiat.
Spiravit in Domino anno salutis millesimo quingentesimo x, septimo , Junii septimo.

Although there a few of the slabs from the cathedral are now in the MusÉe de Cluny in central Paris, many of the slabs entirely disppeared at the time of the French Revolution of 1789. While Saint-Denis was a little distance from the city, as the place where the kings of france were crowned, it was a target of the revolutionaries. The destruction of the royal tombs at Saintt-Denis was ordered in 1793. However, those of historic interest were preserved but moved out of the abbey. The roof of the abbey was removed in 1794. This period had a devastating effect on funerary art throughout France and the drawings made by Louis Boudan for de Gaignières are often the only representations of these monuments. Destruction in the seat of the revolution, Paris itself, meant that almost all of the city’s slabs were destroyed although Sainte Chapelle has a collection. The Abbey of Saint-Denis was restored in the nineteent-century (and the tombs returned) but it had lost its monastic buildings.

Good as many of the Gaignières drawings are, the smaller details can be rather sketchy and the illustration from de Guilhermy’s Inscriptions de la France du Ve siècle au XVIIIe , volume 2 (1875) shows such detail better.

Copyright Jon Bayliss (text and photo)

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