In July 1806, Sophie Barat travelled to Poitiers with Henriette Girard, one of the “dames” living in Grenoble, who was much older than Sophie and very devoted to her. They gradually made it to Poitiers, as requested by Father Joseph Varin. They arrived in the Monastery of Les Feuillants on July 10, 1806, after a month of travel. Here Sophie Barat met the two women that were running the place, which was on the verge of collapse. Before the Revolution, the Monastery was in charge of the Congregation of Notre Dame, but they left it in 1799/1800. After that, a small group of five women native to the city had tried to live according to the monastic rule. In two years, that number had been reduced to two - Lydie Chobelet and Josephine Bigeau – who survived alone there and were hoping to create a boarding school. By 1806, they realized they could not do it alone and so, with great hopes, they accepted the help offered by the arrival of Sophie Barat, the freshly elected Superior General of the new Congregation.
Over the next two years, Sophie and her companions refurbished the place, organized a written routine - a “Religious Rule” - to follow, and organized the novitiate. After some conciliation and discussion among Sophie Barat, Chobelet, Bigeau and the local bishop, they decided to open the first Sacred Heart novitiate. Sophie Barat went immediately to Bordeaux to meet with a group of six young women living together in a house in a vineyard. Thérèse Maillucheau was their leader, and their intention was to start a community there. But in the end, Sophie convinced them to join the community in Les Feuillants.
By the end of the year 1806, the future of Les Feuillants was assured; Sophie Barat, Henriette Girard and ten other women – ten novices! - were living there. Nine boarders were also present. Over the years, Sophie tried to be present in this house as much as possible.
Today, the history of the Society of the Sacred Heart is still present and important to the city of Poitiers, especially with regard to the Chapel that was built there thanks to Sophie’s determination.
Read more about the history of the Chapel
Read more about the Society’s history in Poitiers (in French)
Learn about the recent restoration of the Chapel