Third Sunday in May

Notre-Dame, Bonsecours, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie, France

Overlooking Rouen on the skirts of Mont Thuringe, the town of Bonsecours was called Blosseville until 1957, when it changed its name in honor of its pilgrimage shrine to Notre-Dame de Bonsecours, Our Lady of Good Help. The area has been sacred for centuries. As on many of the old pagan high places in Europe, an adjacent hill had a shrine to St. Michael as early as the 700s. In 1024 the viscount of Rouen founded a monastery there, which soon became famous for a relic brought from Mt. Sinai: St. Catherine of Alexandria's finger, which exuded a fragrant, healing balm. Thereafter known as the Côte de Ste.-Catherine, the hill was a magnet for pilgrims until Henry IV of France destroyed the monastery in 1597 (possibly so that its revenues would fall to another monastery ruled by his family).   

Meanwhile, on Mont Thuringe, there was a chapel to Our Lady of Good Help since 1034, at first manorial, then monastic, and replaced in 1332 by a parish church. After its destruction in 1473 during the attempt of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, to take Rouen, the church of Notre-Dame de Bonsecours was rebuilt. It remained a place of pilgrimage, still more so after the destruction of St. Catherine's. 

During the French Revolution the church was destroyed again, but its sacred object, the 1500s polychrome wood statue of Our Lady of Good Help, was spared. After the Concordat of 1803 restored Catholicism to France, the restored church resumed its roles of parish church and devotional shrine. Our Lady of Good Help was particularly popular with the River Seine boatmen, who left hundreds of votive model boats in thanksgiving for her assistance.   

In the mid-1800s, Abbé Victor Godefroy, pastor of the parish, mobilized the faithful to replace the church with a grander building. Prince Gustave Maximilien Juste de Croÿ, Cardinal and Archbishop of Rouen, laid the first stone on May 4, 1840, and the completed church was blessed in October 1844—a Gothic-style structure with carved stone details, flying buttresses, and magnificent stained-glass windows. Five years later, cholera struck the region, and on June 11, 1849, some 20,000 pilgrims thronged Bonsecours to pray for an end to the epidemic which killed over 100,000 people in France before ending that fall. 

In 1870, Pope Pius IX authorized the canonical crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Good Help, which Cardinal Henri-Marie-Gaston de Bonnechose, Archbishop of Rouen, performed on May 24, 1880, feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians.

During World War I, on September 8, 1914, the Archbishop of Rouen vowed that if the city were protected from German invasion, all the parishes of Rouen would make an annual pilgrimage to Bonsecours for 20 years. The next day, French and British forces repulsed the German advance at the Battle of the Marne. After the war, on March 28, 1919, Pope Benedict XV gave the church of Bonsecours the title of Basilica Minor. The Archdiocese fulfilled its vow and still holds an annual pilgrimage to Bonsecours on the third Sunday in May, with a procession, mass, lunch, concert, and family activities.


bulletBasilique de Bonsecours (76), 
bullet"Toutes les Unes," Eglise Catholique - Diocèse de Rouen, (picture)
bulletJoseph Prudent Bunel and Albert Eugène Ernest Tougard, Géographie du département de la Seine-Inférieure: Arrondissement de Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France, 1879

Also commemorated this date:

bulletNossa Senhora dos Navegantes, Benguela, Angola. City's patronal festa.
bulletNotre Dame des Roses, Jégun, Gers, Midi-Pyrénées, France
bulletNotre-Dame du Bon Remède, Tarascon, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France, Frigolet Abbey (Sun. after May 15)
bulletMadonna delle Grazie, Terra del Sole, Forli-Cesena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
bulletMadonna delle Grazie, Artena, Roma, Latium, Italy. Procession, fireworks.
bulletMadonna delle Grazie, Lanuvio, Roma, Latium, Italy. Procession, music, raffle, fireworks.
bulletMadonna del Carmine, Ardauli, Oristano, Sardinia, Italy
bulletMadonna del Soccorso, San Severo, Foggia, Puglia, Italy. Six-day festa with processions Sunday & Monday.
bulletMadonna di Piano di Campo, Oliveto Lucano, Matera, Basilicata, Italy
bulletMadonna del Ponte, Policoro, Matera, Basilicata, Italy (Madonna of the Bridge)
bulletMadonna di Capo Colonna, Crotone, Crotone, Calabria, Italy. Procession with bull cart.
bulletImmacolata Concezione, Malito, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy (penultimate Sunday)
bulletMadonna dell'Udienza, Menfi, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy
bulletMadonna della Guardia, Catania, Catania, Sicily, Italy (Guardia Ognina quarter)
bulletMadonn' d' Basc', Cassano delle Murge, Bari, Apulia, Italy. Procession commemorates finding of painting May 19, 1855.
bulletNossa Senhora da Conceição, Idanha-a-Velha, Castelo Branco, Centro, Portugal
bulletNuestra Señora de Fátima, Priandi, Nava, Asturias, Spain
bulletVirgen de la Peña, Somanés, Huesca, Aragon, Spain (Virgin of the Crag). Romería to chapel on Monte Cuculo.
bulletVirgen de los Mártires, Atea, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Traditional date May 13, now 3rd weekend.
bulletVirgen del Pilar, Monforte de Moyuela, Teruel, Aragon, Spain. Romería. Town provides wine and dried fruit.
bulletMare de Deu de Les Salines, Maçanet de Cabrenys, Girona, Catalonia, Spain (Sun. after feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, May 15)
bulletVirgen de la Herradura, Acebo, Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain. Romería.
bulletLa Milagra, Navahermosa & Hontanar, Toledo, Castilla La Mancha, Spain. Romería to chapel between towns. 
bulletOur Lady of the Taper, Cardigan, Ceredigion, Wales, UK

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly