Orsigny

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

Orsigny

In 1644, a childless couple, Jacques and Elisabeth Norais, donated to Vincent their large farm, called Orsigny. In return for this land, today located in the town of Saclay, he assigned them a life annuity. Adrien Le Bon (1577-1651), Vincent's predecessor as prior of Saint Lazare, first proposed the idea of acquiring this land, but Vincent was not keen on it. He signed the contract, however, 22 December 1644. Work began on the buildings and he eventually placed brothers here and hired other farm hands and women servants. Within a year after acquiring the land, Vincent, with his solid peasant background, purchased other properties in the area. For some years, he continued to increase his holdings, nearly doubling the original property by 1660. For example, some property was purchased in Villiers-le-Bacle, but the old buildings on this property have long since disappeared. Other properties that are mentioned are those of Belleville and Toussus.

Because the farm was important --- it provided at one point for nearly one-sixth of the needs of Saint Lazare --- it was an attrractive target. Marauding troops pillaged it during the Fronde in February of 1649. To help save the property, Vincent himself led away 240 sheep and two horses toward Valpuiseaux to the hamlet at Frenneville. Since there was also a problem in Frenneville, he then led them to a fortified town near Etampes (otherwise not identified). Some think that this town was Itteville, although nothing in Itteville confirms this suggestion.

After the death of the Norais couple, the two brothers of Madame Norais asserted that the farm had been illegally given to the Congregation and that it should revert to them. They took it to court and won. In September 1658, Vincent had to withdraw his confreres from this farm that had been so important for the maintenance of Saint Lazare. He refused, as well, to appeal the verdict. Nevertheless, he was able to hold on to other nearby properties, since they had not been part of the original Norais farm. In 1663, the Congregation was able to return to part of the Orsigny property and, in 1684, regained the rest. Vincentians continued here until 1792. The Saint apparently felt some guilt over his attachment to this farm, since he said once to his confreres ... God has taken away from us, with this farm, the satisfaction we had in possessing it and the pleasure we used to take in visiting it from time to time. As this recreation was pleasant to the senses, it might have been for us a sweet poison that slays, a knife that wounds, and a fire that burns and destroys (Conference 189).

The farms still exists but is private property. The old entry gates lead in to the courtyard. Of primary interest is the oldest building. On its first floor is a series of rooms commonly referred to as the brothers' rooms. The main staircase is old and well constructed, as is the carpentry work in the old loft adjoining their rooms. A separate chapel building has disappeared. The garden contains an icehouse (glacière), ice being gathered in the winter from the ponds adjoining the property and stored in the icehouse for use all through the year. The age of the other out-buildings and walls is open to discussion, but at least the early appearance of this prominent farm can be appreciated from what remains. The farms used to have bells dated 1663 or 1665, belonging to the Vincentian chapel. Their whereabouts today are unknown (Country road west of Le Christ de Saclay).