23 October 2007

Notre-Dame de Bon-Espoir

One of the oldest statues of the Virgin Mary in all of France rests on an altar in Eglise Notre Dame in Dijon. The wooden statue was carved and installed on the altar in the twelfth century. More primitive than beautiful, she is honored as Our Lady of Good Hope, and at least two miracles have been attributed to her intercession, the first occurring on September 11, 1513, the second on the same date in 1944.

In the Fall of 1513, the Swiss had laid siege against the city. On several priests’ initiative, Our Lady of Good Hope was carried on September 11th in a solemn procession through the streets around Notre Dame and petitions offered up for help. Two days later, the Swiss lifted the siege and retreated. Each year afterwards on the same day, a procession was held in her honor, and in 1515, a tapestry was commissioned to celebrate the miraculous deliverance wrought through her care. The tapestry, recently redone, is striking, with a deep red background, Our Lady standing in gigantic posture astride the city walls, the tiny citizens huddling about her gown, and the word TERRIBILIS above it all.

After the statue was torn down and carried off by Jacobins during the French Revolution, the Infant Jesus knocked from her knees and never recovered, Our Lady of Good Hope was found by a Dijonnais and kept safe in a private home. She was brought back to her altar in 1803.

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The interior of Notre Dame

Fast forward to the twentieth century, and we find Dijon overrun by the Germans on June 17, 1940. The next day, General de Gaulle made his famed public appeal refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the Vichy regime, and Churchill roused a daunted England to

so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

It would not be until September 1944, after a successful Allied invasion in Southern France, that German troops began to withdraw towards Dijon to wait for reinforcements from the North. With greater numbers, the Germans seemed successful in resisting American forces, weakened from lack of supplies.

On September 10, the bishop of Dijon, along with its citizens, gathered within Notre Dame Church to plead for help from Our Lady of Good Hope. The very next day—the anniversary of the solemn procession of 1514—French armored divisions linked up with General Patton’s army moving eastward, and the extra reserves overwhelmed the German forces. French soldiers entered the city without a fight. Dijon was free.

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A wall of stone plaques in thanksgiving for prayers answered through the intercession of Notre-Dame de Bon-Espoir.

Today, Our Lady of Good Hope can be seen adorned in richly embroidered robes in the chapel to the right of the High Altar at Eglise Notre Dame. A low iron grating separates the chapel, and the altar overflows with baskets of flowers, left by the faithful grateful for her continuing succor.

O Vierge sainte,
ô Mère compatissante,
vous avez protégé nos anciens chevaliers, vous avez délivré cette ville des attaques de l'ennemi, vous avez secouru nos pères au milieu de leurs épreuves. Vous exaucez toujours les prières de ceux qui viennent à vous en gémissant. Voyez les peines qui nous affligent et les maux qui nous accablent; ne nous abondonnez pas, jetez sur nous un regard de miséricorde.
Nous venons à vous aujourd'hui en toute confiance, parce que vous êtes Notre-Dame de Bon-Espoir. Réalisez pour nous la promesse que renferme votre beau nom, et nous continuerons toujours de vous servir et de vous aimer. Amen.

Notre-Dame de Bon-Espoir, priez pour nous!