May 17

Notre-Dame des Marches, Broc, Gruyère, Fribourg, Switzerland

Nestled at the foot of Gruyères Hill, the chapel overlooks the terraced deposits of the Saane River known as Les Marches, the Steps. The 28" statue of Our Lady of the Steps, usually vested, is a standing Virgin and Child in the late Gothic style of the 1400s. Documentary evidence of a chapel here dates to 1572.   

The present building goes back to 1705, the work of three brothers, all priests, from a family of cheese merchants. Dom Nicolas Ruffieux, prothonotary of Broc, decided to build "the most beautiful chapel in the country." His brother Jean-Jacques, pastor of neighboring Gruyères, took on the project with a third brother's help. In 1721, the Commune of Broc added the enclosure and the linden trees that still shade the courtyard. 

On May 17, 1884, a healing occurred at Notre-Dame des Marches, the first of several in the 1880s, which turned the rural chapel into a place of pilgrimage. Stricken with a spinal malady, Léonide Andrey, 22, had been unable to walk for six years. She was carried to mass at the chapel and walked home easily. By the 1930s, the sanctuary was known as the "little Lourdes of Fribourg." Two main pilgrimages were established: one in September, initially termed the "anti-alcoholic pilgrimage," and one on a Wednesday in spring, the Pilgrimage of the Sick.


bulletThe sanctuary's website, Notre-Dame des Marches, (picture)
bulletEric Bulliard, "Notre-Dame des Marches," La Gruyère, Sept. 10, 2005,


Also commemorated this date:

bulletOnze Lieve Vrouw van den Oudenberg, Geraardsbergen, East Flanders, Belgium (Our Lady of the Old Mountain). Statue brought, 1648.
bulletOur Lady of Combermere, Ontario, Canada. Madonna House apostolate opened, 1947.
bulletVille-Marie, Catholic utopian colony founded on Île de Montréal, Quebec, Canada, 1642.
bulletNotre-Dame du Taur, Toulouse, Haute-Garonne, Midi-Pyrénées, France. Former procession commemorated routing of Huguenots in 1562.
bulletNostra Signora di Apparizione, Genoa, Italy. Statue found three times in spring of water, 1315.
bulletMaria Santissima ad Rupes, Castel Sant Elia,Viterbo, Latium, Italy. Festa.
bulletMadonna delle Grotte, Mondolfo, Pescara e Urbino, Marche, Italy. Statue crowned Sept. 7, 1946 and May 17, 1977. Festa Sept. 8.
bulletMadonna dei Miracoli, Tramutola, Potenza, Basilicata, Italy
bulletMadonna di Portosalvo, Aprigliano, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy. Statue moves from contrada S. Stefano to sanctuary until Aug. 5.
bulletMother of God Staro Rus, Staraya Russa, Starorussky, Novgorod, Russia (May 4 Julian calendar). Also Sept. 17 / Oct. 1.
bulletNuestra Señora de Setefilla, Lora del Río, Sevilla, Andalucia, Spain. Thanksgiving for miracle of May 17, 1925. Fiesta Sept. 8.
bulletAve Maria Grotto, Cullman, Alabama, USA. Grotto dedicated, 1934.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly