During the 1670s, plans for a new triumphal arch in honour of Louis XIV triggered the so-called
Querelle des inscriptions. Paris intellectuals debated the question whether the
inscriptions for the monument were to be composed in Latin or in French. The Jesuit
Joannes Lucas, who was a teacher at the elitary Collège de Clermont, championed the
cause of Latin inscriptions with a speech entitled De monumentis publicis Latine
inscribendis oratio. He argued that only Latin inscriptions could perpetuate Louis XIV’s
fame, since Latin is a dead language and therefore no longer liable to the quirks of usus.
Whereas the latter is responsible for change in “living” languages, the death of the Latin
language confers on it the stability and universality monumental inscriptions need to perpetuate
Louis XIV’s fame.