Sunday after May 3

Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Kerselare, Edelare, Oudenaarde, East Flanders, Belgium

The image of Our Dear Lady of the Cherry Tree is a statue within a statue. Looking out of the breast of the silver reliquary made in 1763 is a wooden Virgin and Child which had belonged to Roger van Brakel, parish priest of the village of Volkegem (then part of the Barony of Pamele, now in southwestern Belgium) in the mid-1400s. When he died, his heirs brought the foot-high statue to the neighboring parish of Edelare and affixed it to a cherry tree by the road, where it became a focus of devotion. In 1454 people began building a chapel there, and on July 2 of the next year, a Friar Minor from Oudenaarde said the first mass in the new shrine. Healings and miracles multiplied at the site, attracting many pilgrims. In 1459, the chapel caught fire as believers thronged to light candles at the altar. The building was destroyed, but the statue was saved and placed in a new chapel consecrated May 3, 1460, built as a gift of Baron Edward of Pamele. In 1570, a bigger church was built, and another Baron of Pamele, Joos de Joigny, donated an unusual ex voto: the carcass of a crocodile that had attacked him on his way to Jerusalem, vanquished after prayers to Our Dear Lady of the Cherry Tree. Over the centuries the stream of pilgrims included emperors, cardinals, and other notables. In 1892, Our Lady of the Cherry Tree was solemnly crowned. Then in 1961 the church of 1570 burned down. Modernist architect Juliaan Lampens designed the concrete church that replaced it in 1966. Pilgrims still gather there, particularly on the patronal feast of Our Lady of the Cherry Tree, the Sunday after May 3; and on Ascension Day, when hundreds of motorists converge on the shrine for the Blessing of the Cars.   

Sources include:

bulletAngélique Defontaine-Coppée, Chants de mai ou les sanctuaires de belgique, Brussels, 1860
bulletGeert Houck, "Lekkies en bierbollen," Het Nieuwsblad, July 31, 2009,
bulletOudenaarde Deanery, (information and images)
bulletBaron de Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Traditions et légendes de la Belgique, Vol. 1, Brussels, 1870,

Also celebrated this date:

bulletVirgen de Lagunas, Almonacid de la Sierra, Valdejalón, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly