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c.1400, from Old French cenacle, variant of cenaille (14c., Modern French cénacle), from Latin cenaculum "dining room," from cena "mid-day meal, afternoon meal," literally "portion of food," from PIE *kert-sna-, from root *(s)ker- "to cut" (see shear (v.)). Latin cenaculum was used in the Vulgate for the "upper room" where the Last Supper was eaten.
a literary coterie formed around various of the early leaders of the Romantic movement in France, replacing the salon as a place for writers to read and discuss their works. An early cenacle formed around the brothers Deschamps, literary editors of the short-lived but influential Muse Francaise. When the review ceased publication in 1824, the young contributors shifted to the salon of Charles Nodier, who was then librarian of the Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal, second of the great French libraries. The activities of this group, which included Alphonse de Lamartine, Alfred de Vigny, Alfred de Musset, and Victor Hugo, are described in the Memoires of Alexandre Dumas pere. Three years later, Hugo and the critic Sainte-Beuve formed a cenacle at Hugo's house in the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, where other young writers, including Prosper Merimee, Theophile Gautier, and Gerard de Nerval, joined the group. The entourage of Gautier, Nerval, and Petrus Borel, the more turbulent, bohemian Romantics, became known as the Petit Cenacle. When Hugo's poetic drama Hernani was performed in 1830, their clamour and applause supporting the play overwhelmed the scorn of the traditionalists who had come to disparage it, thus ending the battle of the Romantics-the so-called battle of Hernani-for the demise of the outmoded dramatic conventions of Classicism.