Tuesday, October 21, 2008

St Anne d'Auray

Continuing on from St Anne: Grandmother of Our Saviour...

Strangely enough – or is it really strange? Is it perhaps one of those parts of a sublime pattern which seem to fit so perfectly into place? – the devotion at the shrine of St Anne d’Auray, the most famous in Europe, began at almost the same time that it began at St Anne de Beaupre.

It was in 1623, only 35 years before the small group of stranded Breton sailors landed safely on the beautiful medow in Quebec, after averting shipwreck through the intervention of St Anne, that Yves Nicolazic, a Breton peasant who lived near Auray in Brittany itself, announced that St Anne had appeared to him in a vision; that she had instructed him to build a chapel in her honour on a nearby field; and that she had told him a similar chapel had existed there nearly a thousand years earlier.

At first his story, which he kept reiterating, was treated with scorn, and he himself was the object of widespread ridicule; but a sudden change in this attitude took place, when a primitive statue of the saint, in a damaged condition, was unearthed in the very field that Nicolazic had designated! Offerings immediately poured in and a chapel was promptly built, where the rescued image was placed and entrusted to the care of the Carmelites; but they could not safeguard it against the fury that prevailed during the French Revolution. It suffered further damage, and the more important and spacious buildings and the beautiful cloister which, by then, supplemented the original chapel were also partially destroyed.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, however, reconstruction began on a grandiose scale and in a grandiose manner. A great basilica now stands on the site of Nicolazic’s discovery; the humble peasant has been given a glorious tomb there; and the broken remains of the statue so miraculously found have been enshrined beside an altar of modern workmanship.

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