"Reference has already been made to the national character of the Pardon -- or rather Pardons -- of St. Anne -- for there are two, one at Ste-Anne-de-la-Palue (or Palude), the other at Ste-Anne-d'Auray.
Of the two, that of Ste-Anne-de-la-Palue is the more interesting, since it takes us back to days before St. Anne was born or Christianity had come into being. Though, of course, its legend is Christian enough. You will recall that when the Saint had returned from the Holy Land and had given herself up to a life of prayer, her grandson, Jesus, accompanied by Peter and John, visited her hut to ask her blessing before Calvary. Now after she had bestowed it upon Him, Jesus said:
"And to show the love I bear you, Grandmother, I will promise always to remember your Bretons; and whatever you ask shall be given unto them."
"Grandson," answered St. Anne, "let a church be consecrated to my honour upon this spot, and let my Bretons come here for healing."
"So be it," replied Our Lord; and to lay greater stress upon His promise, He struck His staff three times upon the ground, so that there issued from the sand at His feet a spring marvelous in its powers of healing.
Throughout all the centuries it has never once ceased to flow, and many who have come to it in suffering have left it in peace and health.
Soon afterwards St. Anne died; and the sea moaned her lament. The women of the neighbourhood who had tended her in her old age came with linen to shroud her body; but no trace of it could they find.
"She has left us," cried they in grief, "because in some manner we have displeased her."
Yet that very night the fishermen along the coast brought up in their nets a statue of the Saint uncorroded by the sea and of most delicate workmanship. Reverently and joyfully they carried it from the beach; but when it reached the spot upon which St. Anne had lived, it grew so heavy that all the men in the district were not able to carry it farther.
'"It is a sign," they said. "Here must we build her church."
And on that spot, indeed, stands the church around which the Pardon centres....
The legend of Ste-Anne-d'Auray carries us back only to the summer of 1623, to an evening upon which Yves Nicholaizic, who was a farmer, watered his cattle at a spring which bubbled through his field away down the rocky hillside into the Rivière d'Auray.Portrait of Yves Nicholaizic
As he watched the slow movements of his beasts and thought doubtless of the fine prices they would fetch at market, he became suddenly aware of a vast concourse approaching over the fields. Bretons they were from their familiar costumes; but there was about them a radiance with which Yves was totally unacquainted in the folk of the countryside.He looked more closely; and saw in the gathering dusk -- haloes. In their midst moved the superb figure of St. Anne. He threw himself in ecstasy upon the ground; but when he at length ventured a side peep, the heavenly visitants had vanished.
Bewildered, Yves betook himself to the parish priest. That good man argued, however, that as St. Anne had never appeared even to the Bishop, it was sheer presumption to suppose for one moment that she would honour so lowly a person as Yves.
Sketches of the miraculous scenes at d'AurayYet again St. Anne and her attendants visited the farmer at the spring. This time Yves stood firm though trembling, cap in hand and gazing full at the Saint.
"Fear not," she said to him gently, "but do as I bid you. Upon your farm you will find an image of me buried where it fell in the wild days of Vandalism. Unearth it, and rebuild there the chapel in my name in which your ancestors used to worship."
The vision faded; but there came out of the evening glow a star to guide the farmer to the spot where the image might be found. Eagerly he dug with his bare hands, and in due course brought to light a statue, white and shining, of his beloved Saint. All the next day he worked at a shelter of rough turf to serve as a chapel for the statue; nor did he return home until the chapel was complete and he had offered up in it the first prayer.
Now when Yves told his story in the village he was -- perhaps excusably -- looked upon as demented, and was laughed at unmercifully. But St. Anne is not the saint to leave her devotees in the slough of public opinion; to convince the sceptics, Yves must perform fresh wonders. So a third time did she appear to him, accompanied by angels who bore the model of a great church the farmer was to build in honour of the statue and of St. Anne. When the vision had passed, the picture of the task he had to perform remained so vividly in Yves's mind that, returning to the village, he not only drew the complete plans of the church but actually began to build it with his own hands.
Scepticism fled before this fresh marvel. Money and help poured in from the devout; day by day Yves Nicholaizic superintended the building. And even before it was finished, pilgrims came hurrying from every quarter of Brittany to honour St. Anne and to obtain healing at the spring upon Yves's farm on which the Saint had bestowed miraculous properties.