Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday) +2021
Notre Dame de la Breche, Our Lady of the Breach, Chartres, France (1568) – 14 March:
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 even, 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, mentioned above. 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 they miraculously blinded by a manifest miracle. And the miracle was in this way. The defenders of Chartres, placed the Statue above the gate of Drouaise against which, the enemy fired many cannon shots 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 it, but 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.
There is another, even more wonderful story told by historians. As the Huguenots approached a breach in the walls they had made, on 9 March, a “grand lady” stood before them, carrying a child in her arms. Rather than trying to avoid the woman and child, they turned their guns directly on her. Having decided to attack her with murderous intent, they became enraged to see that although they fired dozens of rounds, they seemed to be missing their target, for the woman and child remained before them, standing silently in the breach. Screaming foul threats, the Huguenots fired, reloaded, and fired again but the woman seemed to be catching their bullets and collecting them in her apron.
The Catholics recognised that it was the Mother of God herself, holding Our Lord in her arms and that they had personally taken up the defence of the City. The enemy raged and fired at them to no effect. Encouraged to see what they could never have even dared to hope for, the ecclesiastics and women began to pray anew, as the men picked up their weapons and returned to the fight, vigorously repelling the invaders.
The Huguenots were forced to retreat full of spite and confusion, for they had counted on looting the City and the Church, whose treasury was one of the richest in Christendom. The Prince of Conde had sold, in advance, much of the treasure he expected to plunder from the Cathedral, to which the Canon Souchet said he would never deliver, for the glorious Virgin defended the City, which she recognised as her own, against the hate of those heretical fanatics who showed such malice for her Son.
Mothers in particular come to invoke the Virgin of the Breach and also the Virgin of the door Drouaise, for the protection of their sons, exposed to the perils of war.
The Chapel mentioned above, was destroyed during the French Revolution. The first stone of the new Chapel was laid by M Lecomte, General Vicar, on 7 April 1843.
St Agno of Zaragoza
St Alexander of Pydna
St Aphrodisius of Africa
Bl Arnold of Padua
St Boniface Curitan
St Eutychius of Mesopotamia
Blessed Eva of Liège (c 1205-1265) Recluse
Blessed Giacomo Cusmano (1834-1888)
St Lazarus of Milan
St Leo of the Agro Verano
St Leobinus of Chartres (Died c 558)
St Matilda of Saxony (c 894-968)
Bl Pauline of Thuringia
St Peter of Africa
St Philip of Turin
Bl Thomas Vives
47 Martyrs of Rome – Forty-seven people who were baptised into the faith in Rome, Italy by Saint
Peter the Apostle, and were later martyred together during the persecutions of Nero. Martyred c.67
in Rome, Italy
Martyrs of Valeria – Two monks martyred by Lombards in Valeria, Italy who were never identified.
After the monks were dead, their killers could still hear them singing psalms. They were hanged on a
tree in Valeria, Italy.