Faith and religion

Life at sea was profoundly marked by beliefs, rituals and superstitions. Far out at sea, when gales roared or when the ship was becalmed, the crew found in their belief the courage to survive, and called on God to ease the fury of the elements.
A naval decree from August 1681 ordered that a chaplain be aboard every long-haul vessel. His duties were to "say Mass, administer the sacraments, pray and provide religious education" (Title II, On the chaplain, Art. 1). Chaplains were trained at Jesuit seminaries at Toulon, Brest and Rochefort, and gave the Church the means to keep watch over the population of men at sea. The 1689 Ordonnance pour les armées navales de 1689 stipulates that the chaplain must say Mass not only on Sundays and holidays, but "also the other days as often as possible".
Although we do not know if a chaplain was aboard the Aimable Grenot during its final voyage, it is likely that no representative of the Church was present on the Dauphine, because his name would have been among those who signed the shipwreck report (AD35, 9b517, folio 78V-80V). In the course of examining the vestiges gathered from both wrecks, a few fleeting religious traces have come to light, including on everyday objects. As much as a crucifix, a plate, a bowl or a spoon bear witness that religion was as much a part of life at sea as on land.


Teddy Seguin © MCC / DRASSM
Shallow green-glazed plate with religious medallion, wreck of the Dauphine (1704). On the inside bottom one can see relief inscriptions: a letter H topped by a cross, surrounded by the letters DV.MOSNEMI.D. (Ref. : Nat 1943)
Teddy Seguin (Adramar) © MCC / DRASSM
Handled bowl, wreck of the Aimable Grenot (1749). Mass-produced in workshops in southwestern France, the distinctive feature of this lead-glazed bowl is a Christian cross moulded onto one of its handles. (Ref. : Nat 2424_1)
Frédéric Osada (Images Explorations) © MCC / DRASSM
Wooden crucifix, wreck of the Aimable Grenot (1749). The imprint of four metallic points on the four arms of the cross leads one to think that it probably had a statuette of Christ attached to it. There appears to be no system for hanging it or attaching it to something. (Ref. :Studio_0023)
Frédéric Osada (Images Explorations) © MCC / DRASSM
Wooden spoon from the Dauphine (1704). (NAT03_Studio002)