Old Cathedral’s Bruté Library
The Best Kept Secret in Indiana
Who is Bishop Simon Bruté? He was a brilliant man whose remains are interred in a crypt beneath the altar in the Old Cathedral behind you. Bruté was born and raised in Rennes, France in 1779. He studied in France and became a medical doctor during the French Revolution. His father was a printer for the French monarchy. Upon his father’s untimely death, Bruté’s mother, along with her children, took over the printing responsibilities to make ends meet and to attempt to keep her children out of the military at the time.
Bruté turned down an offer by Napoleon Bonaparte to lead the medical profession in France. He instead chose to travel to the United States to help preach the Catholic faith. He went on to become the president of a university, a prolific writer, a wonderful professor, one of this area’s first historians, and most notably played a major role in the spread of Catholicism throughout Indiana and the surrounding states. Bruté became the first Bishop of the diocese of Vincennes in 1834 and died in 1839. Upon his death, John Quincy Adams referred to Bruté as the most learned man in America. There has been a cause within the Catholic Faith to name Bruté as a saint. Time will tell whether that happens.
The library houses many priceless books on a wide variety of subjects as well as many artifacts dating back to the 13th Century. One of the most interesting artifacts is Mother Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton’s personal bible. She is a Catholic Saint and was the first person born in what would become the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Other holdings include church records dating back to the early 1700s, original maps from the 1700s, William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh’s peace pipe, an original Abraham Lincoln campaign banner, beautiful antique handmade furniture, artwork, the documents of Captain Leonard Helm (one-time commander of Vincennes’ Fort Sackville, later renamed Fort Patrick Henry), religious relics, a print of Jesus Christ out of a single continuous line made in 1649, a very early whaling chest, and a whole host of other fascinating, valuable, and unusual artifacts.