|Devotion to Our Lady||
OUR LADY DELLA CROCE
There is a sanctuary of the Madonna on the Bergamo Road, about a mile away from the city of Crema, Italy. The structure is a circular form, with four additions in the shape of a cross, which gave rise to the name: “Holy Mary of the Cross,” or Our Lady Della Croce. The sanctuary is located in a place where, in years gone by, there stood a dense little wood called “Il Novelletto.”
In the late 15th century a young woman named Caterina Uberti lived with her brother in the city of Crema. When she arrived at marriageable age, her brother induced her to wed one Bartolomeo Petrobelli; it was an unfortunate arrangement – Caterina was good and pious; Bartolomeo was quite the opposite, tending toward the wicked and corrupt. The marriage was unhappy for Caterina and uncomfortable for Bartolomeo – his rather crude and brutal ways shamed her, while her refined and holy life was a silent reproach to his somewhat scandalous mode of living.
So, after a year of turmoil, Bartolomeo decided to kill Caterina. Having made up his mind, he lost no time in carrying out his evil design.
He suggested that they journey to Bergamo and visit his parents; she agreed, and in the late afternoon of April 3, 1490, they mounted their horses and set forth from the city. When they arrived at the wood about a mile from Crema, Bartolomeo left the highway and rode into the forest; Caterina was puzzled, but not knowing what else to do, followed him. When they reached the middle of the wood, Bartolomeo dismounted and made Caterina get down from her horse.
Then, without warning, he drew his sword, raised it and fiercely brought it down, intending to split her head with one clean cut. Instinctively she drew up her arm to ward off the savage blow, saved her head, but lost her right hand – the poor severed hand hung from the stump of her arm by a strip of skin, and Bartolomeo brutally tore it off and flung it to one side. He then slashed at her like a maniac until she fell to the ground in a pool of blood; thinking her dead, he leaped on his horse and fled.
Caterina was not dead, nor was she afraid to die, though she felt her time was short. With all her dying heart she wished for the Last Sacraments; so she prayed to the Mother of God, who heard her prayer. A glow of light pushed back the gathering darkness and a beautiful lady approached her. Reaching down, the Lady, Our Lady Della Croce, took her by the arm and helped her rise – the blood stopped flowing and new life coursed through her mutilated body.
The Lady bade Caterina follow her, but Caterina asked if she might look for her lost hand. The Lady promised it would be returned to her in due time. Taking Caterina to a hut, she told her these people would help her and then vanished. The kind peasants did all they could for Caterina, and the next morning they placed her on a rude stretcher and tenderly carried her back to Crema.
As they passed through the wood, one of the men found the severed hand and returned it to Caterina. They took her to the Church of St Benedetto, where the pastor, after hearing the story, anointed Caterina who died there. The story spread rapidly; some believed, others doubted that the Blessed Virgin worked such wonders.
An eleven year old boy, living in Crema plagued with an unhealable abscess on a foot, begged to be taken to the wood to put his foot on the spot where the Lady appeared. His mother and a group of relatives carried him there, and he was instantly cured, all abscess traces gone.
Many other sick and infirm came also and were cured. The people erected a small chapel on the spot and placed in it a plaster image of Our Lady. More favors followed; many offerings were made by the faithful and in a few years a fitting sanctuary to the Madonna was completed by 1500. Later a fine new statue of Mary was enshrined in the Sanctuary and in 1873 Our Lady Della Croce was crowned with a golden crown by order of the Vatican.
OUR LADY OF APPARITIONS, MADRID, SPAIN (1449)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Apparitions, at Madrid, so called because, in the year 1449, the Blessed Virgin appeared during eight following days to a young woman named Yves, and ordered her to build a church in her honor, on the spot where she should find a cross planted to Our Lady.”
Cubas de la Sagra is a municipality in Spain in the province and autonomous community of Madrid. The approved apparitions of Our Lady in 1449 that occurred there are now almost inexplicably unknown, barely mentioned in passing, or treated as a legend in some books if even recognized as a point on some ancient map. It is true that the hosts of Napoleon looted and destroyed the sanctuary and monastery built there, and that the war in 1936 did not leave one stone upon another, but the memory of what happened there in 1449 must not be forgotten, at least by Catholics.
In the year 1449, Cubas was only a village with a simple church dedicated to Saint Andrew. The population of Cubas, however, lived quite forgetful of their duties to God, and their sins were so many that it seemed even to them that the hand of God must be hovering over the land, ready to punish them.
The Chronicles speak then of a young girl of 12 named Ines, (sometimes Yves or Agnes) who was but of humble birth. Still, there was something about her that made her different from other girls her age. She fasted, confessed regularly, and prayed daily the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. Perhaps her deep faith and religiosity may explain what happened next.
On Monday, March 3rd, 1449, Ines was tending pigs on the outskirts of town in a place called Cecilia, when at noon a woman appeared, a lady bright and beautiful dressed in cloth of gold. She was surrounded by light, and asked Ines what she was doing there. Ines stated that she was tending the pigs. The Lady then said that the people were no longer keeping the fasts, and told Ines the necessity of fasting. The lady said that the people of Cubas must change their ways, confess, and cease their debauchery and offenses against God, or He would soon punish them. There would be a great pestilence that would come upon them from which many would die. Perhaps knowing the hardheartedness of the people, Ines asked if she, too, or her mother and father, would die of this pestilence. She was told only that it would be as God desired. The lady then disappeared.
At first Ines did not tell anyone of the incident, for she thought no one would believe what had happened.
On Tuesday, March 4th, Ines was again tending the pigs, this time near the stream of Torrejon. At about the same time of day, at noon, just as the day before, the Lady reappeared. She asked Ines if she had told the people what she had been told to say, but Ines answered that she dared not to, for she suspected that she would not be believed. The Lady then commanded Ines to warn the people, and that if they did not believe, she would give her a sign. Ines asked the Lady who she was, but she said she would not tell yet before once again disappearing. Finally Ines decided to tell her father, Alfonso Martinez, who did not give any importance to the events recounted by his daughter, but thought it a children’s story, a story invented in the imagination of a young girl. He told Ines to be quiet when she tried to tell anyone about the warning.
On Friday, March 7th, Ines was keeping the pigs in New Prado, when the Lady reappeared again as before. She asked Ines if she had told what she had been commanded to say. Ines answered that she had told her mother and father, and many others. The Lady told Ines to publish what she had said to all the people without any fear or trepidation.
When Ines went home at the end of the day she told her parents what had happened. Her father told her she was lying and to “shut up,” but her mother encouraged Ines, saying, “Well, still, say it.”
By Sunday, March 9th, word had spread. A priest, Juan Gonzalez, with some other men, when to Ines’ home and talked to her parents. Afterwards, the priest went to say Mass. Ines went out with the pigs, accompanied by her brother John, to a place called The Ciroleda. Ines’ father left them and went to Mass. The Ciroleda was a watery meadow that the pigs liked. Ines left her brother after a time looking for one of the pigs that had slipped away, and soon lost sight of her brother. All by herself, she knelt on the soft earth, asking the lady to return, even though she was afraid.
The Lady appeared again as before, telling Ines to rise. “Lady, who are you?” Ines asked. “I am the Virgin Mary,” the lady answered, and approaching Ines, took her right hand and squeezed her fingers and thumb together, making some kind of a sign. She then told Ines to go to the church and show the sign to the people as they left Mass. Ines told her brother to watch after the pigs, and went to the church, arriving just as Mass was letting out. She was crying, and went to kneel before the altar of Mary. There, she told everyone what had happened.
I cannot decipher what the sign was in Ines’ hand, but whatever it was, the people examined her hand and many believed. The following day the priest led the notables of the town and the faithful in a procession to the place of the last apparitions, carrying a wooden cross. When they arrived, Ines walked forward alone with the cross. The Virgin Mary herself took the cross, telling Ines to have a church built there in her honor.
The cross was permanently placed where the Virgin, Our Lady of Apparitions, had been last seen, and many miracles occurred there, including 11 people who were brought back to life. A church was begun shortly after the apparitions of the Virgin were approved. It stood for nearly five centuries, when it was destroyed in the 1936 fire, caused during the Civil War. Many of the nuns were martyred. In 1949 the reconstruction was completed in part by the Regiones Devastadas, who placed the current cross in the same place where the first had been.
According to tradition, Ines ended her life in the monastery of Santa Maria de la Cruz after having children and being widowed. It is said that anyone who goes to visit the place, with faith, receives special graces, and that miracles still occur there.
OUR LADY OF ANGELS OF TOULOUSE, FRANCE
In the year 1212, three merchants from Angers were passing through the forest of Bondy in France, when they were set upon by robbers. After being robbed, they were bound to trees and left to their fate.
Since it was a wild and lonely place, known to be the haunt of robbers, their chances of rescue were few. They prayed earnestly to God and Our Lady, and, after a day and a night, angels came in visible form and released them.
The men discovered a spring near the place where they had been bound, which they considered to be miraculous. They determined to set up a shrine of Our Lady on the spot in thanksgiving for their deliverance.
The first statue they put into the shrine was only intended to be temporary, to be used until something better could be made or purchased. However, almost immediately there began a stream of miraculous cures among those who prayed before the rough little statue. In the years that followed, fervent pilgrims came in droves to the shrine, as evidenced by the numerous drinking vessels found during archaeological excavations carried out on the site.
The same statue remains today, but it has been richly clothed and decked with jewels. In 1260 the little chapel was enlarged to enclose also the spring. In 1663 the chapel was rebuilt and redecorated, and so remained until the French Revolution, when it was completely destroyed. However, after the Terror had passed, the chapel was rebuilt in 1808.
One of the many thank-offerings in the chapel is a ship suspended above the altar, as an ex-voto from a group of sailors who were saved from shipwreck at the intercession of Our Lady.
On Sunday, September 9, 2012, the Diocese of Saint-Denis celebrated the 800th anniversary of the pilgrimage to Notre-Dame-des-Anges in Clichy-sour-Bois, under the leadership of Bishop Pascal Delannoy. The pilgrimage to the small shrine always takes place on the second Sunday of September, and is thought by some to be the second oldest pilgrimage site in France.
OUR LADY OF GUARD (NOTRE DAME DE LA GARDE)
Late one afternoon during the thirteenth century, a solitary French fisherman was fishing off the harbor of Marseille. Before he became aware of it, a terrific storm burst upon him. His boat tossed around like a shell, and filled with water faster than he could bail it out. His rudder was lost; his mast snapped. Cutting himself free from the rigging with a knife, he had saved himself temporarily from certain drowning. Still, everything looked hopeless, and he felt he could never get back to the harbor. The fisherman thought of the family he would never see again and cast a despairing look at the city, the huge rock standing like a sentinel or guard on the mountain which overtopped the city and harbor.
Dimly through the gloom he suddenly saw a solitary figure of a lady, dressed in white, standing firmly on the very top of the rock. She seemed to be extending her hand as if she would help him to the shelter and safety of the harbor. At once it came to him that the Lady so calmly defying the wind and rain could only be the Blessed Mother, so he prayed to her to help him.
Almost immediately his boat ceased its wild tossing, righted itself and pushed by a friendly gust of wind, raced into the calm water of the harbor until it drove onto the shore at the very foot of the mountain. Stepping onto the shore, the fisherman fell to his knees and poured out his thanks to the Blessed Virgin, and then hurried home to his worried family.
The story of his rescue through the assistance of Our Lady quickly spread throughout the port. It was remembered that other sailors, on numerous occasions during severe storms, had also seen the figure of the Lady on top of the rock. Always when she had appeared, the angry seas had calmed and their crafts had ridden safely into the shelter.
Soon everyone came to believe that the rock was the spot on which the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Guard, would appear whenever her help was desperately required. In thanksgiving to her the sailors of Marseille, in 1213-1218, erected a chapel on top of the rock. In it they enshrined a lovely statue of Our Lady.
Around 1544, the chapel was replaced by a large church and the statue transferred to it. Sometime during the French Revolution the statue of Our Lady of Guard was destroyed, but during the 1830’s a new statue was dedicated. That Mary did confine her help only to sailors was proved in the year 1832 when a severe epidemic of cholera struck Marsilles; the people decided to appeal to Mary. Forming a procession, they climbed the mountain, removed the statue from the chapel, brought it down, and solemnly carried it through the streets of the city. Almost immediately the epidemic waned, and in a few days vanished. So they called Mary, Our Lady of Help – the sailors called her Our Lady of Mariners.
Some years later, as the fame of the shrine on top of the mountain spread, with more and more people coming up to pay their respects. The shrine acquired still another name, a name more reflective of who Our Lady truly is for all who call upon her – Notre Dame de la Guarde – Our Lady of Guard, or Guardian.
In Marseilles today, the hill of Notre Dame de la Garde is topped by a beautiful basilica, at an altitude of 550 feet, which was built in 1864. This commanding site, however, has been occupied by a chapel since the year 1214. The interior has a multitude of sailors’ votive offerings, and model ships are hung in all parts of it in sign of thanksgiving for all the mariners who have been assisted by their heavenly mother. A golden statue of the Virgin and Child suitably dominates the city from its place on top of the western tower.
OUR LADY OF GOOD HELP, MONTREAL, CANADA (1657)
Dedicated to Our Lady of Good Help, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours for 300 years has been the sanctuary for seamen leaving Montreal for the seven seas. A wooden chapel was built in 1657; replaced in 1675 by a building whose foundations serve the present church which was erected in 1771.
Over the entrance is an inscribed message: “If the love of Mary is graven in your heart, forget not a prayer in passing.”
Our Lady of Good Help is a beautiful little church, with fine paintings. On the walls are mosaics of Marguerite Bourgeoys, who inspired the first chapel; and of Maisonneuve, founder of Montreal, said to have felled the first oak for the chapel.
A narrow stairway, lined with pilgrims’ acknowledgments, leads to an aerial chapel set in the roof. Here is a facsimile of the Santa Casa, the house of the Virgin reputedly carried by angels from Nazareth to Loreto.
Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys was the founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame. When she returned from France in 1673 she brought back with her a wood statue of Our Lady of Good Help. It can still be seen in the reliquary on the gospel side of the altar, for when the church burned in 1754, the statue was saved from the fire. This is not to say that someone took the statue from the church, for after the fire had ravaged the original chapel, the statue was found uninjured among the smoldering embers that remained.
The mortal remains of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys were interred in the sanctuary of the church in the year 2005, the 350th anniversary of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. She rests now at the feet of the statue she herself had brought from France.
In 1849 the Bishop of Montreal placed a statue of the Blessed Virgin, Star of the Sea, atop the tower facing the harbor. For this reason, the chapel is also known as the Sailor’s Church. There are votive offerings, carved ships, models of sailing ships suspended from the vault of the chapel in thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin for her assistance in their safe return from the sea.
OUR LADY OF NAZARETH, PIERRE NOIRE, PORTUGAL (1150)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This image was honored at Nazareth in the time of the apostles, if we may believe a writing which was found, by a hunter, attached to this image, in the year 1150.”
The Shrine of Our Lady of Nazareth, known in Portugal as Nossa Senhora da Nazare, is found in the village of Nazare on the Atlantic coast in Portugal. Indeed, the village is named after this miraculous statue of the Blessed Mother and the Christ Child that was brought to the area many centuries ago. According to tradition, this miraculous image was carved by the hands of Saint Joseph, the foster-father of Christ, while in the very presence of the Infant Jesus and the Mother of God. Later, the faces and hands of the images were painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. This remarkable image is still preserved in a church where it can be viewed by anyone, and the story surrounding it is a fascinating one.
It is known that the statue of Our Lady of Nazareth came from the Holy Land where it was one of the oldest images ever venerated by Christians. It was saved from destruction at the hands of the iconoclasts sometime early in the 5th century by a monk named Ciriaco, who gave the statue to Saint Jerome. Saint Jerome later gave it to Saint Augustine in Africa, to protect the statue by removing it from the Holy Land. Saint Augustine then gave it into the safekeeping of the monastery of Cauliniana, near Merida, a monastery on the Iberian Peninsula.
When the Arabs invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the year 711, King Roderic met them with his Visigothic army at the battle of Guadalete, where he was soundly defeated.
It is a fact of history that the body of Roderic was never found upon the field of battle, although his horse was found, and it is often assumed by historians that Roderic died that day when he lost his kingdom. According to this legend, however, Roderic was not killed, but survived the battle and disguised himself as a beggar as he travelled north. Alone and unknown, he made his way to the monastery of Cauliniana where he sought shelter for the night. Going to confession, he of necessity revealed his true identity to the friar, Frei Romano. As it turned out, the monks were preparing to leave the monastery in advance of the Arabs, and so Frei Romano asked the king if he could accompany him in his travels. Roderic agreed, and the friar took with him the statue of Our Lady of Nazareth and the relics of Saint Bras and Saint Bartholomew.
They traveled together until they arrived at a place later named Monte de Saint Bartolomeu in November of the year 714. They made for themselves a hermitage with the friar living in a small cave at the edge of a cliff that overlooked the sea. He placed the image in a niche among the stones upon a pedestal of simple rocks. Roderic went a little ways off by himself to a hill where he also began to live the life of a hermit. After a year, though, King Roderic left the hermitage, and nothing else is said of him in this legend. One wonders if he ever learned of his kinsman Pelayo, who had retreated into the mountains and continued to heroically defy the invaders.
Before his death, Frei Romano hid the image in his small cave, where it remained undisturbed for some centuries until it was discovered by shepherds, who came there to venerate the statue. Inside that little, ancient sanctuary they had found the renowned and sacred image of Our Lady of Nazareth. Carved of wood, it was unlike any other statue of the Madonna they had ever seen, for it depicts the Blessed Virgin breastfeeding her Divine Child while seated upon a simple bench. When miracles began to frequently occur, it became a major pilgrimage center.
Then, in the early morning of September 14th in the year 1182, the mayor of Porto de Mos, Dom Fuas Roupinho, was hunting on his land when he observed a deer. Chasing it up a steep slope on horseback that misty morning, the fog became heavier all of a sudden. The deer, later suspected to be the devil in the guise of a deer, jumped off the edge of the hilltop into the empty void. Despite his efforts to stop his horse, the spirited mount was determined to follow after the deer. Helpless to save himself, the rider suddenly recognized that he was near the sacred grotto where he would often come to pray. Fuas Roupinho cried out to the Blessed Virgin, praying aloud: “Our Lady, Help Me!”
The horse stopped immediately, as if he were digging his hooves into the rocky cliff above the void. Suspended in an unnatural manner at the edge of the cliff, Fuas Rouphinho knew the drop to be over 100 meters, and surely would mean his death if he had fallen. He was then able to back slowly away from the edge, looking down to see the evidence of the impossible and unimaginable - for there in the hard stone was the imprint of one of his horse’s hooves. One of those marks can still be seen in the native rock.
Faus Rouphinho dismounted and went to the grotto to pray and give thanks, subsequently causing a chapel ‘Capela da Memoria,’ or ‘The Chapel of Remembrance,’ to be built very near the spot where his life had been miraculously saved. When the masons he had hired took apart the primitive altar in the cave, they found an ivory box of sorts that contained the relics of Saint Bras and Saint Bartholomew. There was also an ancient scroll that they carefully removed.
Opening the scroll, they found that it explained the history of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Divine Child, now known as Our Lady of Nazareth, as outlined above.
The church Santuario de Nossa Senhora da Nazare was later built on the hilltop overlooking Nazare by King Ferdinand I of Portugal in the year 1377. Its construction was necessary due to the large number of pilgrims who continued to come to venerate the image. Over the years it was often rebuilt, or had additions made, especially in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The profusely decorated and gilded apse displays the statue of Nossa Senhora da Nazare in a lighted niche above the main altar, flanked by twisted columns.
The first King of Portugal, Don Afonso Henriques, as well as the chief nobles of his court, were among the early pilgrims to the shrine. Many notable figures came to visit Our Lady of Nazareth throughout history, including Vasco de Gama, who came as a pilgrim before setting out for India, and Pedro Alvares Cabral, who later discovered Brazil. St Francis Xavier, the Apostle of the East, went on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Nazareth before later leaving for Goa.
According to a plaque placed in the chapel in 1623, the image was carved by Saint Joseph in Galilee when Jesus was a baby. Some decades later St Luke the Evangelist painted the faces and hands of the images. It remained in Nazareth until brought by the Greek monk Ciriaco to the Iberian Peninsula. It is believed to be one of the oldest images venerated by Christians.
OUR LADY OF THE STAR, VILLA VICOSA, PORTUGAL
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Star, at Villa Viciosa, in Portugal, so called from a star, which a shepherd saw shining where the church is built.”
Vila Vicosa, and not Villa Viciosa, is a Portuguese village in the district of Evora having a population of about 5400 people. There are five parishes: Bencatel, Ciladas, Cponceicao, Pardais, and Sao Bartolomeu.
Our Lady of the Star translates roughly to Nossa Senhora da Estrela in Portuguese, and I located information about a convent, Convento Nossa Senhora da Estrela, in Portugal, but the convent is not located in Vila Vicosa. I also learned that there is an Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Vicosa, which is a dynastic order whose Grand Master is the head of the Portuguese Royal family. The medal for the order is a kind of star. The order, however, was not instituted until the year 1818, and thus cannot be what the Abbot Orsini was referring to.
Then there is the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception of Vila Vicosa, which is also known as the Solar (Star or Sun?) Patroness. The church is located outside the medieval walls of the town’s castle, and the date and manner of its founding are unknown. The present church is the results of the reform of King Sebastian in the year 1569, and marble from the region is the predominate material used in the construction.
The people of Portugal believe that they were the first in the world to accept the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It is known for certain that it was during the reign of King Don Juan IV when the University of Coimbra and all of the bishops approved his initiative of offering the Kingdom of Portugal to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. The image of Our Lady at Vila Vicosa was proclaimed Patroness of Portugal on March 25th, 1646. Since that time no Portuguese monarchs of the House of Braganca ever again put the royal crown on their own heads. This decision of the Portuguese people and their nation has never been revoked by any governmental agency, and thus it remains in force to this very day.
If you have any information on this title of Mary, please forward it to this site to help complete the most comprehensive listing of the titles of Mary in the Marian Calendar available anywhere on the web! Thank you, and may God Bless you.
OUR LADY OF VIRTUES, LISBON, PORTUGAL
The Church of the monastery of Our Lady of Virtues, or Nossa Senhora de Virtudes in Portuguese, is now nothing more than a ruin located north of Lisbon, Portugal. It is now protected because of its historical importance, and for no other reason.
According to tradition, the origin of the Church of Our Lady of Virtues relates to the appearance of Our Lady to a keeper of cows back in the early fifteenth century. The apparition gave rise to a pilgrimage to the site, as well as the later construction of a primitive chapel, presumably made of wood and other perishable materials. A short time later, due to the growing importance of the site and the devotion of the faithful that he saw going on around him, King Duarte commanded that a Franciscan monastery be built that would be attached to the chapel. Following upon the construction of the monastery, a hospital was also soon built, and then subsequently inns and other businesses supporting the thriving community that grew up around the chapel. Pilgrimages to the shrine became widespread throughout the remainder of the fifteenth century.
Of unquestionable importance throughout the Middle Ages, the more recent centuries have seen the abandonment of pilgrimages to the shrine, as well as the decay of the buildings and the eventual abandonment of the site by the Franciscans. At the beginning of the 1990’s, when excavations were made at the monastery, all that remained was ruins. Despite the fact that the monastery was almost completely destroyed, there are still some structural remains located on the north side of the church, and most of these structures are assumed to still be buried beneath the earth. This is believed because the church of Our Lady of Virtues itself was partially buried before the archaeological work was begun to reveal it.
As far as the original miraculous appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I can find no further information about it. If anyone has any knowledge as to the origin of this shrine, I would greatly appreciate it if you would forward the information to me for publication on this site. Thank you.
OUR LADY OF SAVIGNY, FRANCE (1112)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Foundation of Savigny, in the diocese of Avranches, in Normandy, in honor of the Blessed Virgin, about the year 1112, by the blessed Vitalis, hermit, who was its first abbot.”
About the year 1112, in the diocese of Avranches, the Blessed Vitalis (Vital de Mortain) established the foundation of the Abbey of Savigny (Abbaye de Savigny) in honor of the Blessed Mother. This day commemorates the event.
The abbey was founded near the village of Savigny-le-Vieux in the north of France, and Blessed Vitalis became the first abbot. It was initially Benedictine, but soon was given over to Cistercian monks. Within only thirty years it had over thirty daughter houses.
Initially, Vitalis had gone into the forest of Savigny to become a hermit. His fame for sanctity, however, drew disciples to him. These disciples needed shelter from the elements, and soon Vitalis found those crude structures had become a kind of monastery requiring a rule of life. When the Lord of Fougeres granted the land to Vital, the monastery was founded, and the hermit became the reluctant abbot. In 1119 Pope Celestine II took the abbey under his protection.
When Serlo, also known as Serlon, was the third abbot of Savigny. One of the monks was known to have a deep and tender devotion to the Blessed Mother, and while he was saying Mass in honor of Our Lady, he beheld the Virgin’s hand making the sign of the cross over the chalice at the consecration of the wine. At the same time a deliciously sweet odor surrounded the monk. Thereafter, as often as he recalled this, he was refreshed by the sweetness of the scent which had encompassed him at the time.
Mary’s presence was frequently experienced at this shrine, particularly during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and numerous miracles were wrought, prayers answered and graces bestowed for the asking.
During the 16th century the abbey was pillaged and burned by Calvinists, but it was not until the French Revolution that the abbey was reduced to a pile of ruins. The church, however, was restored in the year 1869 and serves the parish.
OUR LADY OF THE VINE, TUSCANY, ITALY
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Vine, Tuscany, Italy. A fine church, located near Viterbo, occupied at present by Dominicans.”
The city of Viterbo is located at the foot of Mount Cimino in the province of Rome. Viterbo itself currently has 34 separate parishes, with 8 religious houses for men and 18 houses for sisters. I can find no reference to Our Lady of the Vine, or Madonna della Vito, anywhere in the entire region of Tuscany.
I found two references to Dominican convents. The first was Our Lady of the Oak, or Madonna della Quercia, which also has a Dominican convent attached. The second was Santa Maria dei Gradi, of which only the church still remains. It was one of the earliest Dominican convents, although it is now used mainly as a retreat house.
The Heavenly Mother, like all mothers, does not discriminate between children, for her help is for everyone. We now continue with Our Lady of the Oak, which is almost surely the place referred to be the good abbot as Our Lady of the Vine.
At one time in Viterbo there was a certain man named Mastro Baptist Magnano Iuzzante, who was a very God-fearing devotee of the glorious Virgin Mary. He hired a painter named Monetto in the year 1417 to paint an image on a tile of the most glorious Virgin Mary holding her Son in her arms. Mastro Baptist then lovingly laid the tile on an oak tree that stood at the edge of his vineyard, near the road leading to Bagnaia and along which robbers often awaited to attack unwary travelers.
The image remained there for about 50 years under cover of the oak’s branches, and after a while only a few women who passed by ever stopped to say a prayer and to admire the beauty of a natural tabernacle that a wild vine, which had embraced the oak, had created.
During this period a hermit of Siena, Pier Domenico Alberti, whose hermitage was at the foot of Palanzana, went around the countryside and the nearby towns of Viterbo, saying, "Among Bagnaia and Viterbo there is a treasure."
Many people, driven by greed, started digging there but found nothing and asked for an explanation from the hermit. Domenico then brought them under the oak tree chosen by the Virgin and pointed to the real treasure, the Madonna. He told them of the day he had decided to take away the sacred image to his hermitage, and of how it had returned to the oak.
Dominico was not alone in this experience. A devout woman named Bartolomea often walked past the oak tree and stopped each time to pray to the Blessed Virgin. One day she also decided to take the tile to her home. After saying her evening prayers, Bartolomea went to bed, but woke up in the morning to find the image missing. She at first thought that her family had taken it to place it somewhere else, but upon learning that this was not so, she ran to the oak tree and saw what he had already guessed: the tile had miraculously returned to its place amid the tendrils of the vine.
Bartolomea tried again, but always the sacred image returned to the tree. At first she did not say anything to anyone to avoid being taken for being mad.
Then, in 1467, during the month of August, the whole region was struck by the greatest scourge of those times: the plague. Everywhere there were the bodies of the dead lying in the deserted streets, and there was everywhere great weeping and mourning. Some then remembered the image painted on the humble tile, and, as if driven by an inexplicable force, went to kneel beneath the oak. Nicholas of Tuccia, an historian, said that on one day 30,000 people were there to beg for mercy.
A few days later the plague ceased, and then 40,000 of the faithful came back to thank the Virgin Mary. The people of Viterbo were headed by their bishop Pietro Gennari, and there were many from other regions.
In early September of the same year another extraordinary event happened.
A good knight of Viterbo had many enemies, as will often happen to a follower of Christ. One day he was surprised by his enemies outside the walls of Viterbo. Alone and unarmed, and having no way to deal with the mortal danger, he fled into the nearby woods. Fatigued and desperate to reach his destination, the knight heard the cries of the enemy draw nearer and nearer. Eventually he arrived at the oak with the sacred image of Mary, where he fell at her feet with great faith and embraced the trunk of the tree, putting his life into the hands of his Heavenly Mother.
The knight’s enemies reached the oak, but were surprised that they could no longer see the knight. They began to look behind every tree and bush, but not one could see him since he had disappeared before their very eyes. Failing to find him after a long time spent in searching, they gave up in disgust.
Then the knight, after thanking the Virgin Mary, returned to Viterbo and told everyone what had happened. Bartolomea heard his tale, and encouraged by his words, she described the miracles to which she had been a witness. They told everyone what had happened to them with so much enthusiasm, faith that devotion that the stories spread like wildfire, and many people, coming from the most diverse regions of Italy, flocked to the feet of the oak to implore help from the Blessed Virgin.
It was decided to build an altar, and then a chapel of planks before Pope Paul II gave the necessary permission to build a small church in 1467. Many popes and saints have been devotees of the image, including St Charles Borromeo, St Paul of the Cross, St Ignatius Loyola, Saint Crispin of Viterbo, and St Maximilian Kolbe, among many others.
On January 20th, 1944, during the bombing of Viterbo, a squadron of 12 bombers headed for the oak, but upon arriving at their destination, inexplicably veered to the right and the bombs dropped did not destroying anything outside of the asylum which was empty. The remains of the bombs, 3 large chunks, are kept behind the altar of the Madonna.
In 1986, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Our Lady of the Oak Patroness of the new diocese of Viterbo, formed from the union of those of Viterbo, Tuscania, Montefiascone, Acquapendente and Bagnoregio.
Even today the Virgin protects her devotees, and the devotion to the Blessed Virgin of the Oak is very strong.
Every year on the second Sunday of September, the faithful commemorate the "Benefits from the Sacred Image of Our Lady of the Oak." Many cities and towns, with their brotherhoods, participate in the procession of thanksgiving, called the "Covenant of Love " The mayor of Viterbo, on behalf of all participants, renews the consecration made of old by the whole region back in 1467.
OUR LADY OF THE FORESTS, PORTO, PORTUGAL (12th Century)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This image was found again in a forest, where it had been hidden by Queen Matilda, wife of Alphonsus I.”
In searching for information about this title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I encountered a number of problems. When searching for “Our Lady of…” anything in Portugal, Our Lady of Fatima overshadows all search results. In addition, Saint Mary of the Forest is one of the four shrines of Saint Francis of Assisi in Italy, and again, this interfered with search results. I could find no specific reference to Our Lady of the Forests.
Porto, Portugal, is a city second only to Lisbon in size. Checking with the diocese, there does not appear to be a church by the name of Our Lady of the Forests, and I could find no mention of such an image at any of the churches.
Alphonsus I was the first king of Portugal, and his wife, Queen Matilda, better known as Mafalda of Savoy (1125-1158), married him in the year 1146. She was the daughter of Amadeus III of Savoy, count of the Holy Roman German Empire, and a sister to Blessed Umberto. Matilda died young, long before Alphonsus was king - yet her life still had great significance.
Alphonsus I was almost constantly at war with the Moors of Andalusia, and Portugal did not become formally recognized as an independent kingdom until 1179, when Alphonsus I was recognized as king by the pope. Perhaps there was a crisis during these years of upheaval when Queen Matilda was forced to hide in a forest with a cherished image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and although this seems not unlikely, I can find no story relating to such an event.
Although little is known of Queen Matilda, it is believed that she built a small abbey chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin in the outskirts of Fatima in a place called the Rock of Fatima. There was also an attached monastery at this site that was built by the Cistercians, although nothing remains of that monastery now and its foundations have become the floor for the parish church at Fatima. Built in the 18th century, it was originally called Our Lady of the Rosary.
One of Queen Matilda’s descendants was Blessed Margaret of Savoy, who founded a convent for women. On October 16th, 1454, Blessed Margaret was present when her dying cousin, Sister Filipina, spoke aloud the names of the saints who came to assist her on her way to heaven. Sister Filipina revealed during that last ecstasy that in the future there would be terrible wars, and that there would be a monster who would rise in the East as a scourge of all mankind. He would eventually be slain by Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fatima. She said: “A statue of the Most Holy Virgin will speak about very grave future events, for Satan will wage a terrible war. But he will lose because the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God and of the Most Holy Rosary of Fatima, more terrible than an army in battle array, will defeat him forever.” After saying this, Sister Filipina died in the arms of the holy foundress, Blessed Margaret.
The documents attesting to these events surfaced in the year 2000, but keep in mind that this revelation was nearly 500 years before the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima at the Cova da Ira!
OUR LADY OF MIRACLES, SAINT MAUR DES FOSSES, FRANCE
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Miracles, in the cloister of Saint Maur des Fosses, near Paris. It is said that this image was found made, when the sculptor, named Rumold, was going to work at it.”
Saint-Maur-des-Fosses is a city that may be considered to be a suburb of Paris, France. There is a miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Miracles, located in the church of Saint Nicholas in the city. The place owes its name to an abbey that was founded by Queen Nanthild in the year 638 at Les Fosses, which means ‘the moats’ in French. The abbey was called Sanctus Petrus Fossatensis, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as saints Peter and Paul. When the monks of the abbey of Saint-Maur de Glanfeuil in western France fled from the Vikings in the year 868, Holy Roman Emperor King Charles the Bald asked them to settle at Sanctus Petrus Fossatensis. They did so, bringing with them their relic of Saint Maurus, and introducing the rule of Saint Benedict to France in the 6th century.
The abbey, located in a loop of the Marne just before it joined the Seine, became an important pilgrimage site when the relics of Saint Maurus were found to be effective in healing those who suffered from gout and epilepsy. Due to this sudden popularity, and in recognition of it, the name of the abbey was changed to Saint-Maur-des-Fosses, or St. Maurus of the Moats. In the draught year of 1137, all of Western Europe was without rain. The monks of the abbey led a procession of the relics of St. Maurus, and at the conclusion of Mass there was a violent thunderstorm which brought rain to the region.
As should not be surprising, the abbey was seized during the French Revolution by the enthusiastic proponents of liberty, equality, and brotherhood. Anything of value was looted, and the property then sold to speculators. After they were stripped of everything of value, the buildings that remained were demolished and the material used in other building projects, so that today nothing remains but a few vestiges that were collected for display in a museum.
Fortunately, the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Miracles survived. The statue had been venerated since 1328 because of the miraculous circumstances of its creation, and was saved by a locksmith named Hazar. It is now kept at the church of Saint Nicholas in Saint Maur des Fosses.
OUR LADY OF THE EMPRESS, ROME (593)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “A tradition records that this image spoke to Saint Gregory the Great, in the year 593.”
In speaking of the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Venerable Mary of Agreda said thus:
“The humility of the most pure Mary was without example and without equal. For though she was the dawn of grace, the pure beginning of all creatures, the superior over them all, the prodigy of the divine perfections, the center of His love, the sphere of the omnipotence of God, who called God her Son and was called by Him His mother, she nevertheless humbled herself to the lowest place in all creation.”
“She, who enjoyed the highest position, exalted above all the works of God, so that no higher position was left for a mere creature, humiliated Herself so far as to judge herself unworthy of the least estimation, distinction or honor, not even of such as would befit the most insignificant of the rational creatures. Not only did she deem herself unworthy of the dignity of being the Mother of God and of all the graces connected therewith, but she did not esteem herself deserving of the air she breathed, of the support the earth gave to her footsteps, of the sustenance derived from it, or of any service or kindness at the hands of creatures; of all things she considered herself unworthy and she gave thanks for all, as if she were really so undeserving.”
“In order to say all in a few words: that a creature should not seek the honor which does not belong to it or which for some reason it does not merit, is not such a great humility, although the Most High in his infinite kindness accepts it and considers Himself under obligation to one who practices it in that way. But she, most admirably exceeding all this, while deserving all exaltation and majesty, humiliated herself more than all other creatures and sought neither honor nor exaltation. Thus Mary, holding worthily the dignity of Mother of God, annihilated herself, and by this very humility deserved anew and in justice to be raised to the dominion and sovereignty of all creation.”
OUR LADY DE LA BRECHE, CHARTRES, FRANCE (1568)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady de la Breche, at Chartres, where a procession takes place every year, in thanksgiving for Our Lady’s having delivered the city, when besieged by heretics, in the year 1568. It was during this siege that the image of Our Lady, placed upon the Drouaise gate, could not be injured by the cannon and musket balls, which the besiegers fired at it, and the marks of which are still seen at two or three inches from the image.”
“I shall place enmity between thee and the Woman. She shall crush thy head…” is indeed verified at the shrine of la Breche.
The procession mentioned by the good abbot was a custom that took place annually in commemoration of the miracle until the time of the French Revolution. The mayor, or on occasion some other important personage who happened to be the guest of the town at the time, traditionally lit the first candle before the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady de la Breche. Thereafter the procession began, winding its way from the Cathedral down the steep curves of the Rue Muret towards the Porte Drouaise. Those who took part could read the inscription engraved on the ramparts which recorded the events of the siege in Latin for the instruction and example of posterity.
Pursuing their way up the Rue de la Breche, the procession would next arrive at the Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-la-Breche. Inside there was a statue of the Blessed Virgin which stood on the keystone of the old chapel that was erected in 1599 in memory of this event, and near the site of the famous breach.
About the altar are there were numerous cannon-balls of stone which were relics of the siege. Entering the large annex on the right the visitor would see a still more curious relic of the siege – the fourteenth or fifteenth-century statue of Notre-Dame-de-la-Breche, whose name was graven on the keystone above mentioned. And if he should inquire how that name was earned, he would be told that this was the very statue which had been set over the Porte Drouaise and, by a miraculous intervention, had saved the town.
The contemporary chronicler Duparc informs us that for all that the men of the Huguenot army were esteemed the greatest soldiers in Europe, yet were they miraculously blinded by a manifest miracle. And the miracle was on this wise. The defenders of Chartres placed above the gate of Drouaise the statue of Our Lady de la Breche against which the enemy fired many shots from cannon and arquebus alike, but without being able to ever hit it. And to demonstrate how many shots were fired at the gate on which was the said image, the bridge of that gate was broken and cut in two by the cannon-balls, and all round the image up to a few inches of it the marks of many bullets may still be seen. Through it all the statue remained whole and intact; in spite of the efforts of the enemy to destroy that image, for it was never struck by a single shot.
I know well, Duparc adds, that the heretics and some others will scoff at this, but Herod also mocked at Christ when he beheld Him.
The chapel mentioned above was destroyed during the French Revolution.
OUR LADY OF THE UNDERGROUND, CHARTRES, FRANCE (1568)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “In the year 911, the city of Chartres was miraculously delivered from the siege laid to it by Rollo or Raoul, Duke of the Normans; for as he was on the point of taking the city, Gaucelin, the forty-seventh Bishop of Chartres, mounted on the top of the ramparts, holding a relic of Our Lady as an ensign, which struck such terror in the camp, that all retreated in disorder; in memory of this fact, the meadows of the gate of Drouaise are called, to this day, the meadows of the fugitives (des Recules).”
Due to the circumstances of its geographic location, the city of Chartres was subject to Viking raids during the 9th and 10th century. In the year 858, the city was sacked and burned. Early in the 10th century a Viking chieftain (later known as Normans, having founded Normandy) named Rollo came to power, and he led an army of a few thousand Vikings against Chartres in the spring of the year 911. Chartres was surrounded by a strong wall which held the Vikings in check, so the Vikings were forced to lay siege to the city, his men spoiling the surrounding countryside as the days progressed.
Eventually Duke Robert and Duke Richard assembled an army south of Chartres to oppose the fierce Vikings. The relieving force was made up mainly of Burgundians and Franks, and they hoped they were strong enough to attack and drive off the Vikings as the inhabitants of Chartres continued to resist. They finally attacked the Vikings on July 20th, 911, before the walls of Chartres.
When the Franks and Burgundians advanced, Rollo had his army drawn up in a concave pattern which pressed hard against the center of the opposing army. Huge, berserk Vikings smote the French line, and Duke Richard, under great pressure, began to slowly give ground, which would mean the collapse of his army. Rollo was fighting valiantly, certain he was about to vanquish his enemy, when suddenly Bishop Gaucelin, who led the defense of Chartres, sallied forth from the gates of Chartres surrounded by the steel clad defenders of the city. Unmistakable in his Episcopal mitre, holding aloft the tunic of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a relic then kept at Chartres, the defenders of the city fell upon the Vikings with sword and spear. The Vikings, caught between the enemy forces, retreated in defeat.
Dudo, the Norman historian of Saint Quentin, wrote:
“Rollo, mighty and powerful and vigorous and most fierce in arms,
Do not feel ashamed if you now are considered a runaway.
No Frankish or Burgundian assembly
Of manifold nations and hosts puts you to flight, fells you,
But the nourishing tunic of the Virgin mother of God and
Likewise amulets and relics and the reverend cross
Which the reverend prelate carries in his worthy hands.”
OUR LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN, CONSTANTINOPLE (460)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Fountain, at Constantinople, built, by the Emperor Leo, in the year 460, in thanksgiving for the Blessed Virgin’s having appeared to him on the margin of a spring, to which he was charitably leading a blind man, when he was no more than a common soldier, and foretold to him that he would be emperor.”
Emperor Leo I, also known as Leo I the Thracian, Leo the Great, and even Leo the Butcher, was the emperor of the Byzantine Empire from the year 457 until 474. Leo had begun with a career in the military, eventually rising to the rank of tribune in 457. When the emperor then reigning died, Leo was acclaimed the new emperor. It is interesting to note that he is a saint in the Orthodox Church.
In a certain manner, the shrine of Our Lady of the Fountain still exists. Instead of the title the abbot had given it, the shrine is now known as the Mother of God of the Life-Giving Spring, and the story surrounding it is as follows.
Our Lady of the Fountain, Life Giving Spring, cont:
According to the legend, the man who would later become Emperor Leo I of the Byzantine Empire was a good and pious man long before he became Emperor. One day in his travels he had come upon a blind man, who, being tormented with thirst, begged Leo to find water to quench his thirst. Feeling compassion for this man, Leo went in search of a source of water, but found none. As he was about to cease his search, he heard a voice telling him: “Leo, you do not need to tire yourself for there is water nearby.”
Leo looked again, but still found no water. Then he heard the voice again, this time telling him:
“Emperor Leo, enter into the deepest part of the woods and you will find a lake; draw some cloudy water from it with your hands and give it to the blind man to quench his thirst, then anoint his darkened eyes with the clay and you will immediately know who I am, for I have dwelt in this place for a long time. Build a church here that all who come here will find answers to their petitions.”
Leo found the lake, and did as he was instructed. As soon as the blind man’s eyes were anointed, he received his sight. Leo became emperor a short time later, and then built a large and beautiful church in honor of the Blessed Virgin at that place just outside the Golden Gate near the Seven Towers district. Many miracles began to occur there, including resurrections from the dead, through the intercession of the Mother of God. When this church was damaged by earthquakes, it was rebuilt by subsequent emperors who also experience miraculous healings.
The church was razed to the ground when Constantinople fell to the Turks in the year 1453. The material that remained was taken to be used to construct the mosque of Sultan Beyazid. Even then people continued to come to the place seeking relief, for the spring remained intact beneath the ruins. The shrine had twenty-five steps going down to it, and a window in the roof above from which it received a little light.
In 1821 the shrine was destroyed during the Greek War of Independence. In 1833 the Sultan Mahmud allowed the Orthodox Christians to rebuild the shrine. Later, on the night of September 6, 1955, the Turks killed the abbot was hung and the shrine desecrated and burned to the ground. The shrine has since been restored yet again, but appears nothing like it once had in the distant past. Still, it is said that the water from the spring still has healing properties.
OUR LADY OF IRELAND
During the difficult times of Oliver Cromwell, one of the bishops forced to leave Ireland was Doctor Lynch, Bishop of Clonfert. He traveled about Europe and finally came to Hungary in 1654. He was kindly received by John Pusky, Bishop of Gyer, and eventually became auxiliary bishop of the Diocese. Ten years later Bishop Lynch planned to return to his native land. Almighty God prevented this; during his dying hours he gave to the Bishop of Gyer his only material treasure – the picture of the Madonna of Ireland. Soon after, as a memory of the Irish Bishop, the picture of Our Lady was hung on the wall of the Cathedral at Gyer.
Years passed. On the feast of Saint Patrick, while large numbers of the faithful were present in the Cathedral, an awe-inspiring event took place. A bloody sweat was observed to come over the figure of the Blessed Lady in the picture. Drops of blood fell onto the Infant Jesus; as the bleeding continued for three hours. Linen towels, which are still retained under glass at her shrine, were used to wipe the blood from the blood-perspiring face.
In the archives of the Cathedral of Gyer, there is a document written in 1697 on parchment, relating this event. It is signed not only by the clergy and the laity who were present at the Mass, but by the mayor and the councilmen, by the governor, Lutheran and Calvanist preachers, a Rabbi – over one hundred signatures represent eye-witnesses to the miracle. In 1874, Pope Pius IX granted a plenary indulgence on the feasts of Saint Patrick and the Assumption, before which feast public novenas are held.
In 1913 Archbishop Schrembs of Toledo, visited Gyer in Hungary. He saw the beautiful painting and was deeply moved when told of the wonderful event. He requested a copy for the many Irish Catholics in his diocese who would be happy to learn the history and to possess the picture of Our Lady of Ireland. The copy was placed face to face with the original and then given to Bishop Schrembs. On August 23, 1914, Archbishop Schrembs dedicated the new St Stephen’s Church in Toledo, Ohio. The Hungarian people had paid about 2/3 of the expenses of the building. The Bishop presented the Madonna to this church, saying:
“I am convinced that the picture will be treasured in a Hungarian Church just as much as it would be in an Irish one.”
Both Hungarians and Irish were thrilled.
The image depicts Mary crowned as queen, Our Lady of Ireland, and before her, lying on several circular pillows, is the Infant, also crowned as the Little King, and covered with royal robes.
OUR LADY OF LORETO (the cathedral was built in 1586)
The church of Loreto, one of the finest in Italy, has been adorned, according to their taste, by the popes, who have often come thither on a pilgrimage like the common faithful; three gates of chased bronze give entrance into the holy temple, in the center of which arises the Santa Casa in its clothing of white marble, adorned with magnificent bas-reliefs, designed by Bramante, and executed by Sansovino, Sangallo, and Bandinelli.
La Sala Del Tesoro no longer displays enough riches to pay the ransom of all Italy; but it has still received, in our days, very magnificent gifts of princes and popes. Among these pious gifts we observe a gold monstrance, enriched with diamonds, a chalice, and a thurible, offered by the Emperor Napoleon to the Madonna; an enameled chalice, set with rubies and aqua marinas, offered, in 1819, by Prince Eugene Beauharnais; another chalice, adorned with brilliants, by the Princess of Bavaria, his spouse; a large cross of gold and diamonds, and a crown of amethysts, rubies, and diamonds, offered in 1816, by the King and Queen of Spain, at the time of their pilgrimage to Loreto; a nosegay of diamonds, offered, in 1815, by Maria Louisa, sister of the King of Spain, Queen of Etruria, and Duchess of Lucca; an immense heart of very fine gold, with a precious stone in the center, suspended from a chain of emeralds and amethysts, the gift of the Emperor of Austria to the Madonna. It would be impossible to enumerate the precious stones and rich presents of all kinds offered by princes and kings, under the simple title of dono de una pia persona, in the register containing the names of benefactors to the Santa Casa.
The miraculous statue of the Madonna is thirty-three inches high; it is carved in cedar wood, covered with magnificent drapery, and placed on an altar glittering with precious stones. We are assured that the niche which it occupies is covered with plates of gold. A number of lamps, of massive silver, burn before it.
The beautiful litany of Our Lady of Loreto was the votive offering with which a celebrated Florentine composer, of the early years of the eighteenth century, repaid a miracle of the Blessed Virgin. This composer, whose name was Barroni, all at once lost his hearing, like Beethoven; after having exhausted the succor of art without success, he invoked that of Mary, and set out on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Loreto. There he was cured, after praying with faith, and in his gratitude to the Holy Madonna, he composed, by inspiration, in her praise, a chorus, which, under the title of Litanie della Santa Casa, was performed for the first time on the 15th of August, 1737. This litany was repeated every year afterwards for the feast of the Madonna; Rossini, happening to pass by Our Lady of Loreto, was struck with the charm of this composition, and is said to have introduced it into his Tancredi (Gazette Musicale).
The front area of the church was constructed during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus V in 1586, and it was he who founded the order of Knights of Loreto, who were a company of knights especially devoted to defend the shores of the Italian Mediterranean against the incursions of barbarians.
The popes have delighted to testify their respect for Mary, by making her miraculous sanctuary of Loreto the object of their devout solicitude. Pope Pius V offered to the Santa Casa two silver statues of Saints Peter and Paul; he did still better by diverting from its natural channel a river, the waters of which, sluggish and in great measure stagnant, sent up the most unwholesome exhalations to the top of the hill, where a small town has been formed, under the shadow of the magnificent church of Mary.
Pope Benedict XIV, embellished this sanctuary with truly persevering generosity, where Pius VII, having recovered his liberty, came to kneel, before his entrance into Rome, and where he left, as a memorial of his visit, a superb gold chalice, with this inscription: “Pius VII, sovereign pontiff, restored to liberty on the day of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and coming from France to Rome, left at Loretto this monument of his devotion and gratitude.” His holiness Gregory XVI also made a pilgrimage to Loreto.
SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH, SPOUSE OF OUR LADY
“All the unmarried men gathered in the temple and prayed to the Lord conjointly with the priests, in order to be governed by the Holy Spirit in what they were about to do. The Most High spoke to the heart of the high priest, inspiring him to place into the hands of each one of the young men a dry stick, with the command that each ask his Majesty with a lively faith, to single out the one whom He had chosen as the spouse of Mary.”
“And as the sweet odor of her virtue and nobility, the fame of her beauty, her possessions and her modesty, and her position as being the firstborn in her family was known to all of them, each one coveted the happiness of meriting her as a spouse. Among them all only the humble and most upright Joseph thought himself unworthy of such a great blessing; and remembering the vow of chastity which he had made and resolving anew its perpetual observance, he resigned himself to God’s will, leaving it all to His disposal and being filled at the same time with a veneration and esteem greater than that of any of the others for the most noble maiden Mary.”
“While they were thus engaged in prayer the staff which Joseph held was seen to blossom and at the same time a dove of purest white and resplendent with admirable light, was seen to descend and rest upon the head of the saint, while in the interior of his heart God spoke:
“Joseph, my servant, Mary shall be thy Spouse; accept Her with attentive reverence, for She is acceptable in my eyes, just and most pure in soul and body, and thou shalt do all that She shall say to Thee.”
“At this manifestation and token from heaven the priests declared Saint Joseph as the spouse selected by God himself for the maiden Mary. Calling Her forth for her espousal, the Chosen one issued forth like the sun, more resplendent than the moon, and She entered into the presence of all with a countenance more beautiful than that of an angel, incomparable in the charm of her beauty, nobility and grace; and the priests espoused Her to the most chaste and holy of man, Saint Joseph.”
OUR LADY OF CALEVOURT, NEAR BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (1454)
The Abbot Mathieu Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Calevourt, at Uckelen, near Brussels. This image began to work miracles in the year 1451, which led to the determination to build a magnificent chapel in honor of Our Blessed Lady, in the year 1623, which the Infanta of Spain, Isabella Clara Eugenia, devoutly visited in the same year.”
The image of Our Lady is known under various titles, due to the fact that Mary gives aid, even miraculous aid, when called upon for help. Our Lady of Calevourt is perhaps better known as Our Lady of Good Success, or Our Lady of Aberdeen.
We are told that during the Protestant “Reformation,” the figure was taken to Flanders and hidden away by a Catholic family to protect it from profanation; in due course it fell into the hands of Protestants. This family received numerous graces and blessings which they attributed to the presence of the holy image in their house. They were reconciled to the Church as a result.
In 1623 a Spanish captain was given the statue with instructions to place it into the hands of Archduchess Isabella. The arrival of the statue in Brussels is related under several incidents. The same day the ship arrived, the Infanta Isabella won a battle against the Hollanders. The Princess sent the statue back to Brussels, providing the necessary funds for a sanctuary she intended to be called Our Lady of Aberdeen. The townspeople greeted the statue enthusiastically with a procession and placed it in the chapel, but when the victory became known, the name of the sanctuary was changed and dedicated instead to Our Lady of Good Success.
From that time on Mary traveled from place to place, but always her image was saved. During the Terrors of the French Revolution the statue was given to an English Catholic who kept it safe until 1805, when it was restored to Belgium. A few years later the Protestants forced the image to be transferred to a parish church in Finistere, where the image now reigns peacefully over her beloved people.
The statue is of the Blessed Mother standing with her Divine Child reclining on her right arm, His feet supported by the lift hand of His mother. Our Lady holds a key and a large rosary.
OUR LADY OF BRUGES, FLANDERS (1150)
At a shrine in Flanders, dedicated to Mary, it is reported that a lock of Our Lady’s hair is preserved, given by a Syrian bishop, named Mocca.
This shrine is likewise said to have its famous relic of the Holy Blood, which is the center of much pilgrimage. The precious relic was brought from Palestine by Thierry of Alsace on his return from the second crusade. From 1150 this relic has been venerated with much devotion. The annual pilgrimage attended by the nobility in their quaint robes takes place on the Monday following the first Sunday in May. Not only the Flemish nobility take part, but also thousands of pilgrims from all over Christendom.
Every Friday the relic is less solemnly exposed for the veneration of the Faithful. As mentioned above, the shrine is dedicated to Mary, for it was she who gave her own blood to her Divine Son, the God-Man.
As at all the Marian shrines, miracles take place through the intercession of the Mother of God.
The present Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame in Bruges was built in 1225, and is famous for its 400 foot tall brick tower. Inside, however, is where the real treasures are kept. Among those relics already mentioned, there is also a Madonna of Bruges, a marble sculpture of the Blessed Virgin and the Divine Child sculpted by Michelangelo.
The features of the Blessed Virgin depicted in the Madonna of Bruges are very similar in appearance to the famous Pieta, which Michelangelo was said to have completed just prior to this sculpture. It is the only one of his works that left Italy during Michelangelo’s lifetime, and was purchased and brought to Bruges by a wealthy merchant.
In 1794 the inhabitants of Bruges were forced by the French Revolutionaries to ship the Madonna of Bruges to Paris. It was fortunate that the statue was not destroyed, as so many Catholic works of art were during the French Revolution. The statue did not remain long in Paris, as it was returned to Bruges after the defeat of Emperor Napoleon. It was taken again in 1944 when the German’s retreated from Belgium, but it was discovered two years later in Germany and returned once again to Bruges.
As a precaution, after a bomb was placed before the statue of the Pieta in Saint Peter’s Basilica in 1972, the Madonna of Bruges was placed behind bulletproof glass, so that the public can now only admire the sculpture from several feet away.
OUR LADY OF CITEAUX, FRANCE (built by St. Robert in 1098)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “On Palm Sunday, in the year 1098, Saint Robert, Abbot of Moleme, retired with twenty-one of his monks to the diocese of Chalops-sur-Saone, where he built, in honor of Our Lady, the celebrated monastery of Citeaux, the head house of the order.”
The original abbey dates back to 1098 when Saint Robert of Molesme left Molesme to found another monastery. They ended up at Citeaux, and the new monastery was one dedicated to honor the Blessed Mother under the rule of Saint Benedict. Their magnificent church was not completed for nearly another 100 years in the year 1193. The famous Saint Bernard of Clairvaux actually left Citeaux to found his monastery at Clairvaux in the year 1115. It was from this place that new Cistercian abbeys sprung up all over Europe for the benefit of all mankind.
The monastery at Citeaux suffered pillaging several times throughout the Hundred Year’s War, and the monks were often forced to take refuge elsewhere during those perilous times. It was not until the 16th century before the community once again numbered over 200 monks, but then with the Wars of Religion the number of monks began to decrease again. Finally, in 1791, the abbey was struck by the French Revolution as the property was illegally seized and sold by the government.
Perhaps because of the Revolution, I can find no other reference to the miracle related by the Abbot Orsini.
OUR LADY OF VICTORY OF LEPANTO
The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement that took place between the ships of the Catholic Holy League under Don Juan of Austria and the navy of the Ottoman Empire under Ali Pasha, supported by a large fleet of corsairs. The Ottoman Empire was far too powerful for any one Christian kingdom to stand against, and although all of Western Europe was threatened, only Spain, the Papal States, the Duchy of Savoy, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, and the Knights of Saint John took a stand against them. Altogether they still had only 212 ships against no less than 278 ships.
For hundreds of years the Ottoman Empire had been making advances into Europe, while also making lightning raids along the coastlines to pillage and take slaves. They intended to eventually overwhelm all of Europe, and at that time Catholics stood almost alone against them as no Protestant force would do anything to oppose the invasion.
The advantage in this contest went strongly to the Turks, and so Pope Pius V implored all of Christendom to pray the Rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary to obtain her intercession before the throne of God for their victory. Admiral Andrea Doria sailed to meet the Turks with an image of the Blessed Virgin prominently displayed in his flagship’s state room.
The Venetian forces on Cyprus had been under siege by the Turks during the time that the Catholic forces were preparing to meet them. On August 1 they surrendered after being assured that they could leave the island unopposed. The Ottoman commander broke his solemn oath, however, taking the Venetians captive and flaying their captain while he was yet alive. Once he had completed this unspeakable torture, his dead body was hung from a spar on Mustafa’s flagship alongside the heads of all the Venetian commanders. This was the type of barbarism the Catholic forces sailed to oppose.
The engagement took place on the 7th of October, 1571, only 6 years after the Knights of Saint John defeated a powerful Ottoman army at Malta. Don Juan of Austria encouraged his men by telling them that “There is no paradise for cowards.” If they should lose the engagement, the Mediterranean Sea would be opened up to assist future Ottoman invasions. Victory would mean at least a brief reprieve.
The Ottoman Turks had not lost any significant naval engagements in the memory of any living man, yet they were defeated. It was widely recognized that the battle was won through the power of Mary, Our Lady of Victory. The Turks had come up like fire from the East, plundering, raping, enslaving, threatening to master the whole of Christendom, but had been defeated at Lepanto through the power of the Rosary.
The Turks had lost nearly 9 of every 10 ships, and 30,000 men went to a watery grave. The Holy League lost only 17 galleys and 7,500 men. Many historians rank Lepanto as the most decisive naval engagement since the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, proving to the Christians that the Turks could be beaten. Although the Turks soon rebuilt their fleet, many of their best soldiers and sailors were already dead at Malta and Lepanto.
This feast also celebrates another Christian victory, as in 1716, Mary, Queen of Victory, was chosen to protect her children again at Petenwardein. This battle was fought on August 5, 1716, between the Austrian army of Prince Eugene and the Turks at Peterwardein in Hungary, and it was also won through the power of Mary Most Holy.
To help equip the Christian army against the Turks, Pope Clement XI emptied the Papal treasury.
The two armies met on the morning of the feast of Our Lady of the Snows; the Christian army was outnumbered ten to three; the enemy had the advantage of position; but the Christian strength lay in the right of their cause and in Mary, who watched over them. The battle was long and hot, but, behind the lines in the churches of Europe, Catholics prayed: their prayers were heard. That evening the sun set on a free Hungary. Mary’s men had won the day; Mary’s banner floated victoriously over a Christian land.
The news filled the Christian world with joy, but nowhere more than at Rome. In thanksgiving to the Mother of God for her help, glorious, solemn, pontifical ceremonies of gratitude were held in the basilica of Saint Mary. After Lepanto, Pius V instituted the feast of the Holy Rosary in Rome, and Clement XI extended it to the world.
Today other more sinister errors eat at the heart of Christian culture: Naturalism undermining man’s faith in God and himself. Communism is Mary’s enemy; it transforms the state into a god to which men must be sacrificed. Men are children of God, sons of Mary, not slaves of the state.
Against the errors of our time, we must appeal to Mary; she is our guide, our Queen of Victories and of Peace. For her and for her blessed Son we struggle, and on her powerful intercession with the Prince of Peace we place our trust.
We struggle today to preserve our birthright as sons of God. Never in her history has America been so evidently on God’s side. And Mary, our Mother, the Queen of Victory and of Peace, stands for our final victory, for our peace. Victory and peace must and will be ours, if we cling to the Mother of God. Mary will again crush the head of the Serpent, and this time, again, by means of her Rosary, if we have recourse to her through it.
OUR LADY OF THE FLOWERING THORN
During the Middle Ages, when many a knight rode off to the Crusades, never to return. Among the many widows left behind was one of saintly repute on the heights of Jura. She was devoted to the Mother of God, whose image in her chapel she kept constantly supplied with fresh flowers.
One day in wintertime she went searching in the woods for some fragrant twig to grace her Marian shrine. Thorn trees do not bloom in winter, but our Lady’s devotee prayed that she might find a love-offering. Naïve and childlike in her confidence in Mary, she was not surprised to find blossoms on a thorn tree. Some days later, she went at dusk to get another fresh spray from the obliging thorn-tree, and found it all alight; she was troubled as she went through the woods, fearing it might be the light from a robber’s campfire. She peered through the bleak winter-branches at the blossoms swaying in the breeze. Hurriedly picking a branch she went home and told the chaplain her story.
He and an old servant went with her the following night, chanting hymns as they approached the radiant tree. The chaplain parted the branches and saw a small statue of Our Lady, surrounded by a circlet of blossoms on the branch. It was a small statue, not pretty, rudely carved of wood and painted in bright colors; yet there was no doubt about its identity as a statue of the Mother of God. They took it home, rejoicing and fixed a niche for it in the chapel. There the noble lady and her retinue watched and prayed until midnight. In the morning, however, the statue had returned to the thorn tree. The Lady feared in her humility that her own unworthiness sent the statue from her; but the chaplain assured her that Our Lady simply wanted to be honored in the place that she herself had chosen.
A chapel was built around the thorn-tree to Our Lady of the Flowering Thorn, and the statue left in its original spot. Its fame spread all over Europe, and for many years pilgrims turned from the more famous pilgrim roads to seek out the narrow gorge where Our Lady of the Thorn held court, and sprigs of the favored tree withered on many a chapel wall throughout Christendom. Nuns, too, came to the favored spot, and the noble Lady gave them her house for a cloister and built there an abbey church. She herself joined the nuns and after a holy life, died at the foot of Our Lady’s altar. Now grasses creep for many centuries over the stones worn smooth by sandaled feet of consecrated nuns, and the pilgrims ways are lost in the brush and the thorn.
Still, each spring, till Time is no more, the thorn trees bloom, and white petals testify to those who will listen, to the tale that no scientist would believe, the story of Our Lady of the Flowering Thorn. If you wish to check on the details, you might go yourself to the forgotten valley near the highest peak of the Jura and walk among the ruins there. As you kneel on the grassy stone that once formed the arch above the chapel window, say a prayer to Our Lady for the one from whom I heard the tale, for me, and for all lovers and devotees of Mary.
THE ANNUNCIATION TO OUR LADY
This feast was instituted by the apostles, and is the most ancient of all.
Absorbed in profound contemplation, the humble Virgin of Nazareth, Spouse of Joseph, the Carpenter, was pondering the ills which afflict humanity, at the same time fostering in her heart the most ardent longing for the advent of the Messias promised by the prophets. Suddenly a heavenly messenger presented himself to her. It was the Archangel Gabriel who, bowing with reverence before her, said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” And the Virgin thought within herself what manner of salutation this might be. Then the Angel went on to explain to her: “Thou hast found grace with God.” “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son; and the Lord will give Him the throne of David His Father…and He shall reign over the house of David forever and His Kingdom shall have no end.”
But Mary said to the Angel: “How shall this be done, since I know not man?”
And the angel answering, said to her: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy One which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God…”
The Angel awaited her reply. Then Mary said: “Behold the Hand-maid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.”
Fiat – “Be it done” is a mark of desire, not of doubt. Fiat may also be understood as a word of petition, for no one prays unless he believes and hopes to obtain. God wished to be asked. This Mary understood, when she said, “Be it done.”
The human mind will never understand perfectly how much the Incarnation accomplished in Mary at that moment. When she was raised high above all angels and men, she abased herself as much as is possible to a creature. Her greatness was equaled only by her humility. Her blind obedience was the crowning act of her devotedness to God’s will all the years before the Annunciation. It was the manifestation of her interior sanctity and beauty of soul which, as one of the Fathers has said, “ravished the heart of the Son of God and drew Him down to her bosom.” This spiritual conception through faith and obedience was a far greater thing to Mary, we are told, than her conception of Him in the flesh. Mary’s consent to be the Mother of God was given on our behalf, too. This incarnation was a spiritual marriage between the Son of God and our humanity.
The mystery of the Annunciation reminds us of our indebtedness to Mary, as well as of her glories.
This feast of the Annunciation has left its impress on all the arts. Religious and military orders have perpetuated this feast in many ways; the Angelus daily reminds us thrice of it.
We ought to revive interest in a feast as great as this; it is one of the greatest feasts of the year to a world which so badly needs Good News; the Irish call it “Lady Day,” and we simply call it the feast of the Annunciation.
OUR LADY OF SOISSONS, FRANCE (1128)
In the year 1128, a plague afflicted the city of Soissons. For six consecutive days the victims went to the shrine of Our Lady and called out to her for help. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to them, accompanied by heavenly hosts of angels. Immediately the people who witnessed the miracle and believed were healed. The Bishop asked all who were healed to make a novena of thanks and to kiss the slipper of the Holy Virgin kept in the church.
A rustic servant of one of the knights of Soissons, a man named Boso, came to the church for the festival which was to follow the novena. While his companions gave gifts and talked of the slipper of Our Lady, he gave nothing and scoffed at the idea, muttering, “You are very foolish to believe this to be the Virgin’s slipper. It would have rotted long ago.” At these words Boso’s blasphemous mouth was drawn toward his ear with such sharp pain that his eyes seemed to slip out of his head. A tumor appeared and covered his face, making it unfit for human use. Roaring and writhing, he threw himself before the altar of Mary, begging for help, as he had offended the Mother of God, and he knew there was no one else who could heal him.
The abbess, a woman named Mathilda, took the slipper and made the sign of the cross over the victim. Immediately he began to heal. The punished scoffer repented and gave himself up to the service of the Church of Soissons. Many – the lame, the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the paralytics, were healed at the shrine.
The Abbey was once the largest in France, famous for its rich collection of relics, including the “Lady Slipper,” but all that remains today of the abbey is a ruined wall with two arches, as the rest was methodically razed by the eager hands of the devotees of the French Revolution.
APPARITION OF OUR LORD TO OUR LADY AS SOON AS HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD
“Christ our Savior, arisen and glorious, in the company of all the Saints and Patriarchs, made His appearance. The ever humble Queen prostrated herself upon the ground and adored her divine Son; and the Lord raised Her up and drew Her to Himself. In this contact, which was more intimate than the contact with the humanity and the wounds of the Savior sought by Magdalen, the virgin Mother participated in an extraordinary favor, which She alone, as exempt from sin, could merit.”
“This favor was, that the glorious body of the Son so closely united itself to that of His purest Mother, that He penetrated into it or she into His, as when, for instance, a crystal globe takes up within itself the light of the sun and is saturated with the splendor and beauty of its light. In the same way the body of the most holy Mary entered into that of her divine Son by this heavenly embrace; it was, as it were, the portal of her intimate knowledge concerning the glory of the most holy soul and body of her Lord.”
“As a consequence of these favors, constituting higher and higher degrees of ineffable gifts, the spirit of the Virgin Mother rose to the knowledge of the most hidden sacraments. In the midst of them she heard a voice saying to Her: “My beloved, ascend higher?”
“By the power of these words she was entirely transformed and saw the Divinity clearly and intuitively, wherein she found complete, though only temporary, rest and reward for all her sorrows and labors. Silence alone here is proper, since reason and language are entirely inadequate to comprehend or express what passed in the Blessed Mary during this beatific vision, the highest she had until they enjoyed. Let us celebrate this day in wonder and praise, with congratulations and loving and humble thanks for what she then merited for us, and for her exaltation and joy.”
OUR LADY OF CASTELBRUEDO, CATALONIA, SPAIN
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “It is related that every year, on the day of the Annunciation, three lights were seen of a blue color, which shone through the glass windows of this church at Olion in Catalonia, lighted the lamps and wax candles, when out be the same way, and immediately disappeared.”
Here at Olion, in Catalonia, Spain, Our Lady was once venerated under the title of Our Lady of Castelbruedo, or Nuestra Senora de Castelbruedo. The lamps and the wax candles of the church were likewise lighted by invisible hands, and all disappeared three days after the feast, on the twenty-eighth of March. Despite all subsequent investigations, the lights and their extinguishing could not be accounted for; but it was universally taken for granted that all this was all to honor Our Lady and her great feast.
The church at Olion referred to by the good abbot must be one that was once located in Oliana, Spain, and not Olion, as it appears there is no such city in Spain. Oliana is in Catalonia, and is a very small municipality of a few hundred inhabitants in the Sergre valley just below the Oliana reservoir. There is no Catholic church there anymore, however, and the only church anywhere nearby is the church of Sant Climent near Coll de Nargo, which appears to be about 6 miles away. It dates from the 11th century, but looks as if it is little more than an abandoned structure. The region is popular now with those involved with the sport of rock-climbing.
I can find no further information about this site. If anyone has any information on this Marian title, please forward it to me for inclusion on this website and for the edification of all Catholics.
APPARITION OF OUR LADY TO ST. BONET (7th century)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Apparition of Our Lady to Saint Bonet, Bishop of Clermont, in Auvergne, whom she ordered to say Mass one night when he had remained in the church to pray. The saint, leaning against a pillar as if to hide himself, the stone became soft and made the place for him, which is seen to this day. But the Blessed Virgin having obliged him to officiate, the ceremony being finished, she left him the chasuble which had been brought him by angels to celebrate in. The heavenly present is still to be seen at Clermont, where it is preserved with great care.”
Saint Bonitus, or Saint Bonet, was for ten years the Bishop of Clermont in Auvergne. He was known to be greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to tradition, he actually saw the Blessed Virgin Mary while he was praying by himself in church. On that day he was interrupted from his prayers when he heard angelic voices singing in heavenly harmonies. He lifted his head to see a multitude of angels entering the church, their light filling the entire place. With them were many of the saints, who processed along behind the angels. They were followed by the Queen of Heaven, who was seated upon a magnificent throne that was held aloft by the seraphim.
When the heavenly procession stopped before the main altar, Saint Bonitus hear some of the saints ask who was to say Mass. The Blessed Virgin herself turn to Saint Bonitus and said:
“Here is Bonitus, my faithful servant and excellent bishop. He is worthy of fulfilling this holy function."
Some of the blessed saints then detached themselves from the others and approached the holy bishop, who was startled and trembling as they raised him to his feet. Taking him by the hand, they accompanied the bishop to the choir where they clothed him in a chasuble of marvelous workmanship that the Blessed Virgin had brought for him to say this Mass. The saints and angels assisted the bishop as acolytes.
When the Mass was ended the Blessed Virgin, the saints and angels left the bishop alone again. Two years later Saint Bonitus retired and went to the abbey of Manlieu, where he remained until he died in the year 710. The chasuble that was the gift of the Blessed Virgin was kept at Clermont until the year 1793, when it was burned with many other sacred relics by the broad minded insurrectionists of the French Revolution.
OUR LADY OF BOULOGNE-SUR-MER
In the year 636, a small group of people standing on the seashore witnessed a ship without oars or sails came into the harbor of Bolougne. It finally came to rest in the estuary, seemingly of its own accord. One of the witnesses boarded the boat and confirmed that there was no one aboard, and that the vessel had no rudder, oars or sails.
The ship, however, bore a statue of Our Lady. Taking hold of it to bring it to land, a voice was heard saying, "I choose your city as a place of grace." The citizens welcomed Mary to their city by erecting to her a shrine which reached its height of glory in the 12th Century.
King Henry VIII is reported to have stolen the statue of Our Lady of Bolougne and taken it to England. After many negotiations, the French managed to get it back. The image had been stolen and hidden many other times, but always saved and returned.
World War II almost completely destroyed the statue. In modern times, four exact replicas of Our Lady of Bolougne toured France for more than seven years as a symbol of French devotion to Mary. One of these was taken to Walsingham, England in 1948 and carried in procession by the “Cross-bearing pilgrimate” when many other statues and images of the Virgin visited England.
Bologne was one of the most important Lady shrines of medieval France; among its noted pilgrims have been: Henry III, Edward II, the Black Prince, John of Gaunt.
Marian Feast Day, July 10th: The dedication of a new church built in honor of Our Lady of Boulogne was consecrated in the year 1469 by Bishop Chartier of Paris. The confraternity of Our Lady of Boulogne was so celebrated, that six French kings have chosen to belong to it.
At the French Revolution, the statue was burnt to ashes and the church pulled down. A new statue was made in 1803 and pilgrimages began again. The image represents the Mother with the Child in her arms, standing in a boat, with an angel on either side. At the Marian Congress in Bolougne in 1938, a custom began to take replicas of this statue “on turn” in France and abroad. A branch of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Compassion at Bolougne has been established for the reconciliation of the Church of England.
The sanctuary church at Bolougne was badly damaged during World War II, and Mary’s image smashed; but the return, the “Great Return” of one of the copies of the statue which had been sheltered at Lourdes, took place in 1943, and the occasion will long be remembered by lovers of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is an ancient offshoot of this shrine at Boulogne-sur-Seine.
OUR LADY OF THE HOLY CROSS
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of the Holy Cross, at Jerusalem, where is kept a part of Our Lady’s veil, given by Saint Helen.”
The Roman Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, or Basilica de Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Italian, is one of the seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome. The church dates back to about the year 320, when Saint Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine, modified one of her rooms in the imperial palace to house the relics of the Passion of Christ that she had brought back to Rome from the Holy Land. Even though the church is located in Rome, it is said to be “at Jerusalem” due to the fact that the floor was covered with earth that had also been brought back from Jerusalem, meaning that the church was built upon the soil of Jerusalem.
Saint Helena travelled to the Holy Land in the year 326, founding churches at the places where Christ was born in Bethlehem, and from where he ascended into heaven. It shouldn’t seem so remarkable that Helena was able to find the holy places such as the Cenacle, for many of the buildings still stood. Then, as now, the buildings were constructed of stone, and so they could not burn, as wood would only be found in furniture, doors and windows. It was also under Helena’s direction that the Cenacle was purified, consecrated, and Mass said there once again. The Cenacle became the seat of the archbishop until the year 636 when the Arabs came with fire and sword.
There are many significant relics kept at the church, including pieces of the cross upon which Jesus suffered his Passion, two thorns from the Crown of Thorns, a piece of one of the nails that held Our Lord to the Cross. Other relics include a piece of the cross of the Good Thief, a bone from the finger of Saint Thomas that he had placed into the wound of Christ after His the Resurrection, and fragments of the pillar Christ was tied to when he was whipped, the Holy Sepulcher, the crib Jesus had used as a baby, and other fragments from the grotto where He had been born at Bethlehem. These relics can still be seen today.