Emmaus International

Exactly 20 years ago, on 11th December 2000, Abbé Pierre’s personal papers and Emmaus International’s archives were officially deposited in the National Archives of the Working World (ANMT) in Roubaix, in the presence of Abbé Pierre and Michel Duffour, Secretary of State for Heritage and Cultural Decentralisation.

Confrence AP Soundcloud

By making Emmaus International his sole legatee, Abbé Pierre gave the association the responsibility of filing and storing the archives, as well as putting them to good use. The anniversary of the deposition of the archives in the ANMT is an opportunity to learn more about the important work of Florine Catteau, Emmaus International’s archivist, and rediscover the exhibitions and works based on this precious heritage.


The existing archives are composed of papers, posters, photo negatives, slides, photo prints, video tapes, audio tapes, 16mm films and much more. They currently cover 307 linear metres. The archives are mostly from Abbé Pierre and the association Emmaus International, but there are also some from Emmaus group archives and historical figures of the Movement which have been collected in order to store them safely.
This sorting and filing work has made these archives widely accessible. They can be consulted in the reading room. In 2019, 90 requests from Emmaus groups, individuals or the media were processed.


In 2012, a first exhibition based on the archives – “Abbé Pierre, brother of the poor and activist for peace” – was held at the ANMT. This was an opportunity to rediscover the life and work of the founder of Emmaus and to delve into the archive documents. The exhibition remained in the same place until April 2013, and then became a travelling exhibition, shared free of charge with Emmaus groups and other structures which request it. It continues its travels to this day.

In 2018 it was followed by the exhibition “Abbé Pierre, photographer. A view of the world” coordinated by the Abbé Pierre-Emmaus centre, and then by the Abbé Pierre Foundation’s exhibition in 2019 – “Scattered pages. Abbé Pierre the artist” which reveals another side to Abbé Pierre: artist and photography lover. 


The book “Inédits” published only in French in 2012 brings together many different archives (texts, photos, drawings, etc.) illustrating Abbé Pierre’s life and struggles. It was followed in 2015 by a collection of Abbé Pierre’s previously unpublished texts: “Pensées inédites pour un monde plus juste (previously unpublished texts for a fairer world)”. In 2019, new manuscripts were found among the many transcriptions and documents filed away in his archives, and were published in an expanded version under the title “Drawing strength from the infinitely small”, translated into several languages, which can be ordered directly here.

Bringing our heritage to life is one of the missions that Emmaus International has been developing more widely since the last World Assembly in 2016. Many actions have been implemented with this aim; you can find further detail on them in the 2019 Heritage Review.

Abbé Pierre would probably have reminded us that, just like solidarity, bringing our heritage to life is something we should all be involved in. It is our shared responsibility to make every effort to run different projects which serve our common objective of “raising awareness” and “participating in debates which shake our world”.