Northern Illinois University Press

Mother of the Church

Sofia Svechina, the Salon, and the Politics of Catholicism in Nineteenth­-Century Russia and France

Tatyana V. Bakhmetyeva

Winner of the 2018 Harry C. Koenig Book Prize for best Catholic biography.

“In this engaging intellectual biography of the ­Russian noblewoman Sophia Svechina, ­Bakhmetyeva provides authoritative close readings and analyses of primary sources, presenting to her readers letters to and from Svechina, as well as quotations from important religious writings. Svechina’s personality and influence come alive in the narrative.” —Christine Worobec, author of Possessed: Women, Witches, and Demons in Imperial Russia (NIU Press, 2001)

"Tatyana Bakhmetyeva’s fascinating and well-documented book chronicles the life of Russian noblewoman Sofia Svechina . . . But this study is much more than a narrative of Svechina’s life. Through the microcosm of Svechina’s biography, the author offers a comparison of some of the political values of Russian and Western societies as they had evolved to the nineteenth century." —The Russian Review

Sofia Petrovna Svechina (1782–1857), better known as Madame Sophie Swetchine, was the hostess of a famous nineteenth-century Parisian salon. A Russian émigré, Svechina moved to France with her husband in 1816. She had recently converted to Roman Catholicism, and the salon she opened acquired a distinctly religious character. It quickly became one of the most popular salons in Paris and was a meeting place for the French intellectual Catholic elite and members of the Liberal Catholic movement.

As a salonniére, Svechina developed close friendships with some of the most noted public figures in the Liberal Catholic movement. Her involvement with her guests went deeper than the typical salonniére’s. She was a mentor, spiritual counselor, and intellectual advisor to many distinguished Parisian men and women, and her influence extended beyond the walls of her salon into the public world of politics and ideas.

In this fascinating biography, Tatyana Bakhmetyeva seeks to understand the creative process that informed Svechina’s life and examines her subject in the context of nineteenth-century thought and letters. It will appeal to educated readers interested in European and Russian history, the history of Catholicism, and women’s history.

December 2016, 420 pp., 8 illus, 6x9
ISBN 978-0-87580-737-9
$45.00x Paper

Tatyana V. Bakhmetyeva is a lecturer at the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Rochester.

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-737-9
paper $45.00