Monk of Solesmes
Founding Prior of Xishan

Born Feb 18, 1870
Prof. June 29, 1897; Ord. June 10, 1900;
Prior: Jan.1929; Died  Dec. 23, 1937.



The following text is adapted from an article by Fr. Werner Papiens deMorchoven, published in the Valyermo Chronicle in 1987. The article was based on an obituary published at St. Andre in 1937, shortly after Fr. Joliet's death.  See also: Delcourt, Dom Jehan Joliet

ON December 23, 1937 The Rev. Fr. Dom Jehan Joliet, monk of the Abbey of St. Peter, Solesmes, died in China. He had been first prior of the monastery of Saints Peter and Andrew of SiShan in Shunking, founded in 1928 by the Abbey of Saint-Andre in the province of Szechwan China. To that monastery Fr. Joliet gave his whole life. He chose the site and designed the monastery buildings. He was the delegate of Dom Theodore Neve, Abbot of Saint-Andre: Fr. Joliet erected the monastery canonically on December 14, 1929; and in so doing he founded the first monastery of the Benedictine Order in China.

Joliet, Student

Joliet, Naval Officer

Fr. Joliet was born in Dijon on February 18, 1870, of a strongly Catholic family with royalist convictions. In 1887 he entered the naval academy in Brest “le Borda”. In 1890 he served in the Mediterranian Fleet, and in 1891 transferred to the French naval division in China, serving aboard the Admiral’s flagship ‘Triomphante’. He was there reunited with a friend from his days at the academy, Charles Rey, later Commander Rey, who would play an important role in Joliet’s monastic future.

Commandant Charles Rey

Charles Rey

In China both Rey and Joliet came to know a Chinese family named Yu, with whom Joliet studied Chinese. According to the letters of Commander Rey: “It was at that time that Joliet decided to one day return to China to work towards the conversion of the Chinese people.”

Joliet returned to France in 1892, and in 1894; years later the two friends were reunited in the Mediterranian Fleet. When on the advice of Dom Grea, founder of the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, Joliet decided to become a Benedictine, it was to his friend Caries that Joliet confided his desire: He entered Solesmes in November of 1895. I visited him many times, even in England when the Benedictines had been expelled from France and had relocated on the Isle of Wight at Quarr Abbey.  They remained in exile at Quarr from 1901 to 1923, when they were permitted to return to Solesmes.

Solesmes, Sable-sur-Sarthe House-Chapel at Quarr

The monks of Solesmes: in Exile in England from 1901-1923

 When he entered Solesmes he had informed the Abbot, Dom Delatte, that he wanted both to be a monk and to consecrate himself to the conversion of the Chinese. He asked the abbot to give him permission to leave Solesmes whenever the occasion would be ripe. Dom Delatte accepted these conditions.”

Br. Jehan Joliet made his monastic profession the 28 of June, 1897. Three years later on the 10th of June, 1900, he was ordained priest. He would have to wait for twenty years of profession to pass before recieving an opportunity to discuss and develop his plans for a Chinese foundation. It would be another ten years before could leave for China. In January, 1921 Bishop Lecroart, S.J, Vicar Apostolic of Hsien-sien, was informed of Fr. Joliet’s hopes for a Benedictine Chinese foundation. An exchange of letters followed between the bishop, the Abbot of Solesmes, and Cardinal Van Rossum, Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Cardinal Van Rossum had made Pope Benedict XV aware of the bishop’s request and Joliet’s interest. Dom Cozien, The Abbot of Solesmes, responded by offering to place Fr. Joliet at Cardinal Van Rossum’s disposal: the abbey of Solesmes, however, was not able to take responsibility for a Chinese foundation.

In 1924 Commander Rey visited Rome together with the representative of a group of Chinese students who had been converted to Catholicism through the labors of Fr. Vincent Lebbe. Commander Rey raised the question of a Chinese Benedictine foundation with Pope Pius XI, who referred Rey to Abbot Primate Fidelis Von Stotzingen.

Quarr Abbey Sint-Andriesabdij

The Primate recommended that Rey visit the abbey of Saint-Andre in Belgium, where Commander Rey was warmly received by Abbot Theodore Neve. Saint-Andre, however, was not ready at that time to undertake a Chinese foundation.

On October 28, 1926 Pope Pius XI consecrated in St. Peter’s six Chinese as bishops. After their consecration the bishops visited France, Belgium, and Holland. At the initiative of Fr. Vincent Lebbe two of them, Bishops Souen and Hou, spent the Feast of Christmas at Saint-Andre, where Commander Rey arranged for them to meet with Fr. Joliet. The Abbey of Saint-Andre was now ready to make a foundation in China. On May 20, 1927 Dom Jehan Joliet, monk of Solesmes, and Dom Pie de Cocqueau, monk of Saint-Andre left for Marseille. One month before both had assisted Abbot Theodore Neve receive into the novitiate a Chinese who had been a student at the University of Louvain. This Chinese was Dom Thaddeus Yong An-Yuen. On October 4 of the same year the abbot received into the novitiate of Saint-Andre Dom Peter Celestine Lou Tseng-Tsiang, former Prime Minister of China.

Dom Joliet and his companion went to Peiping. Under the direction of Mgr. Constantini, the Apostolic Delegate in China, their sojourn in Peiping lasted about a year. They spent this time learning the Chinese language and evaluating possible locations for their monastery. Mgr. Constantini recommended a part of the Province of Szechwan, where the Holy See had prepared the erection of a new Chinese Vicariate. In May, 1928, Dom Joliet and Dom Cocqueau arrived in Chengtu, the capitol of Szechwan. The Vicar Apostolic of that city, Bishop Rouchouse of the Foreign Missionaries of Paris, received them graciously and remained their friend, advisor, and patron in the years to come.

It was decided to establish the monastery in

Shunking, a city of 100,000 people which would be part of the future Chinese vicariate. Fr. Joliet arrived in Shunking in July, 1928, and was warmly received by Fr. Paul Wang, who two years later would become the first bishop of that city. Ill health necessitated the return to Europe of Fr. Cocqueau.

Xishan, The Priory of Saint Andrew and Saint Peter

On September 7 Dom Joliet sent to the Abbot of Saint-Andre a few sketches of the new buildings which would be the future monastery. It was a small monastery with about twenty cells and a small chapel - all built completely in the local style.

In the same year, November 4, 1928, Abbot Theodore Neve received permission from Rome for the canonical errection of a priory with its own novitiate in Szechwan. He solemnly blessed the foundation cross of the new monastery and sent it to Fr. Joliet with two “reinforcements”, Dom Emile Butruille of the Abbot of Oosterhaut and Dom Hildebrand Marga of Saint-Andre. On March 20 1929 Dom Joliet and his two confreres entered the new wing of the monastery, which was solemnly blessed by Bishop Wang on December 14, “Gaudete” Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent.

With the help of his European friends, especially those in France, Fr. Joliet created at SiShan a library intended to bring together the religious traditions of East and West. In August 1930 the Abbot of Saint-Andre sent two more monks to join the group at SiShan. The first was Dom Gabriel Roux, a monk of the Abbey of Solesmes, who was named sub-prior of SiShan. The second was Fr. Dominic Van Rolleghem. When, completely exhausted, Fr. Joliet retired to his hermitage in the mountains near the major seminary of Chengtu, Fr. Gabriel Roux became the superior.

In 1934-35 Abbot Theodore Neve visited China accompanied by two new monks, Fr. Raphael Vinciarelli and Fr. Thaddeus Yong An-Yuen. He appointed Fr. Gabriel as Prior. The term of prior for Fr. Gabriel, proved to be very short, however; for he died the following year of a violent fever on Holy Thursday, April 9, 1936. His tomb was the first one to be opened at Xishan. He was thirty-five years old.

Prior Jean Joliet

Abbot Theodore Neve of St. André

“Even before entering the Abbey of Solesmes I have always looked forward to ending my life in complete solitude.” Fr. Joliet wrote these lines on April 9, 1934, to the Abbot of Saint-Andre, asking permission to live an eremitical life in the mountains north of Chengtu. Bishop Rouchouse expressed his support of Fr. Joliet’s request: thus Fr. Joliet retired to a hermitage at Pehlutchang at 1200 meters’ altitude on a property belonging to the mission of Chengtu, twenty minutes’ walk away from the major seminary of Hopatchang.


In October, 1937 Fr. Joliet was visited by the third Prior of Xishan, Fr. Raphael Vinciarelli, who had always hoped to meet the founding prior who had laid the corner stone of the monastery. He came with Fr. Vincent Martin, who had been sent to china with Fr. Eleutherius Winance and Fr. Wilfrid Weitz in 1936. This visit was a source of great comfort and joy for Fr. Joliet: he considered their religious fidelity and their expression of fraternal charity a choice gift of God. In a few weeks, however, the hermit would take the road back to his monastery to be laid to rest in the cemetery of the monastery he had founded.

Fr. Joliet’s health and strength quickly deteriorated. On December 22 he left the seminary at Hopatchang for the hospital at Chengtu. He died en route the following day, while spending the night in Matchangpa at the rectory of Fr. Matthew Tong. He was buried in his monastery at SiShan on January 30, 1937. Thus ended the life of Fr. Joliet, whose life and last years bear a resemblance to those of another French Naval Officer, Fr. Charles de Foucald.

Quarr Abbey Sint-Andriesabdij