marian calendar     may

Sunday after Ascension

Notre-Dame de la Fontaine, Chièvres, Hainaut, Wallonia, Belgium

In the early 1100s, between the church of Chièvres and the marketplace, an elderberry tree beside a spring housed a statuette of the Virgin. Around 1130, the young, beautiful, and pious heiress Eva de Chièvres (also called Eve, Ide, or Ida) had a chapel built there for the statue, to protect it from the elements. At about the same time, she married a knight, Gilles de Chin, whom legend says the Virgin helped slay a dragon that was terrorizing his territory in nearby Wasmes in 1133. Eva also founded a hospital and two other chapels in Chièvres. Gilles died in a tournament in 1137, and after the death of two more husbands, Eva retired to a nunnery in the 1170s.   

Known at first as Notre Dame du Séhu, Our Lady of the Elder, the shrine of Notre-Dame de la Fontaine became a place of pilgrimage famous for miracles of healing. It served as a "chapel of respite," where babies born dead were laid out so that they could be baptized before burial if they showed signs of life.

In 1315, a Norman pilgrim, cured of gout in all his joints, paid to rebuild the chapel of Chièvres and to create a similar shrine in his homeland. Eva's shrine was remodeled again in 1326, with an altar over the site of the elder tree. In 1568 another Norman, Antoine Deprés, who had come to Belgium for a six-month hospital treatment of a skin disease on his legs, was completely healed after visiting the chapel in Chièvres. Maximilien de Berghes, Archbishop of Cambrai, conducted a rigorous investigation and proclaimed the cure miraculous the following year. Rebuilt in 1632, with a holy well in its center that drew water from the spring, the chapel was destroyed in 1798 after the Napoleonic invasion of Belgium. Found in the ruins, the Virgin's statuette was kept in the church of Chièvres until the 1890s, when Father Victor Duray organized construction of the present neo-Gothic brick Chapel of Our Lady of the Spring.

From Scene 4 of the Eva de Chièvres pageant, "Meeting with Gilles at the Spring." Eva meets with the Virgin first. (Chièvres Office of Tourism.)

Some sources suggest that the Pilgrim's Procession predated the chapel, or that Eva de Chièvres began it. Others say it began to commemorate the procession held in 1569 in thanks for the miracle of healing. In any case, it's a long-standing tradition which takes place in May or June, 43 days after Easter, on the Sunday after Ascension Thursday. In recent years the event has grown into a regional festival, the "Ducasse du Pèlerin," with rock concerts and other activities on Friday and Saturday before the Sunday mass and street procession of the Virgin's statue, borne on people's shoulders in a Gothic-style litter. 


"Chièvres: Ducasse du Pèlerin : ce sera rock'n roll," L'Avenir, May 18, 2009,
Office du tourisme de la ville de Chièvres,
Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Otto, Baron de, Traditions et légendes de la Belgique, 1870,
"Ève de Chièvres," Wikipédia, 2010,

Also commemorated this date:

Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Meetkerke, Zuienkerke, West Flanders, Flanders, Belgium. Pilgrimage of fishermen from Blankenberge.
Notre Dame des Fleurs, Plouharnel, Morbihan, Brittany, France (Our Lady of the Flowers). Pardon.
Notre-Dame de Pitié, Pleaux, Cantal, Auvergne, France
Unserer Lieben Frau von Schienen, Öhningen, Konstanz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (Our Lady of the Rails). Procession.
Madonna vom Terzenbrunn, Bad Kissingen, Lower Franconia, Bavaria, Germany, Arnshausen district. Star pilgrimage.
Madonna di SS. Filetta, Amatrice, Latium, Italy
Madonna dei Bagni - Scafati, Salerno, Campania, Italy (Madonna of the Baths) 
Madonna di Vergadoro, Strongoli, Crotone, Calabria, Italy
Onze Lieve Vrouw van Zevenwouden, Bolsward, Súdwest Fryslân, Friesland, Netherlands (Our Lady of the Seven Forests)
Nossa Senhora das Angústias, Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal
Marija Zavetnica s Plaščem, Ptujska Gora, Majsperk, Slovenia (Patroness Mary of the Mantle). Church dedicated, 1410.
Virgen de la Ola, Bárboles, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain (Virgin of the Wave). Romería to ermita in Peramán (5 km).
Virxe das Virtudes, O Corgo, Lugo, Galicia, Spain. Masses; procession.
Virgen de Navahonda, Robledo de Chavela, Madrid, Spain. Romería; fiesta Pentecost Sunday; subida Trinity Sunday.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly