Saturday after the Third Sunday

Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Westrozebeke, Staden, West Flanders, Belgium

On November 26, 1382, opposing armies camped around the village of Westrozebeke: rebels recently victorious in Ghent vs. Louis II, King of Flanders and French troops brought in to help him. Area residents congregated at a forest chapel to beg the Virgin's help too. At the battle the next day, the rebels fled after their leader was killed. Afterward, the story goes, people discovered a red silk thread encircling the area the King's forces had occupied, with seven knots equally spaced along it, and crosses where the ends met: a sign of the Virgin's protection. This was soon distributed for relics, and in its place eight chapels were built: seven to honor each of Mary's Sorrows, where the knots had lain, and a larger one to honor the Holy Cross. In 1384, Louis II's son-in-law Philip II of Burgundy instituted an annual procession and mass in thanksgiving for the victory.

Many pilgrims sought out the circuit of eight chapels and the help of Our Lady of Roosebeke ("rosy stream"), especially sufferers from the streptococcal skin infection erisypelas, known as St. Anthony's fire in English, but as wondroos ("rosy wound") in Dutch. And they continued to frequent the old forest chapel of Our Lady of the Fountain, near a spring with waters said to heal eye diseases.

The annual pilgrimage continued for centuries. People from the provincial capital, Bruges, brought new clothes for Our Lady's statue, while those from Menen, to the south, came in thanksgiving for their deliverance from an epidemic in the early 1500s.   

In 1566, iconoclasts destroyed the statue. Believers installed a new one in 1584.

During World War I, another miracle came to light. In 1916, when Germans torpedoed the ferry Sussex as it crossed the English Channel toward France, sailors from Westrozebeke prayed to Our Lady and were spared. But their village was not so fortunate: it was destroyed during the war. Our Lady's beloved statue, which had been moved away for safekeeping, returned afterwards and was installed in the new Church of St. Bavo on June 13, 1924.

Now part of the municipality of Staden, Westrozebeke holds a 10-day festival in July, starting on the third Sunday, when firemen throw roses from the church tower. The religious portion culminates in Our Lady's Pageant on the following Saturday, with a procession and mass in St. Bavo's Church, where roses encircle the statue of Our Lady in a glass case.

Sources include:

bullet"Bedevaart naar O.L.Vrouw van Westrozebeke," www.jojo-menen.be/jojomenen/bedevaart_westrozebeke.html (photo)
bullet"Kermis," www.staden.be/WWW/gemeente/3654.html
bulletOtto, Baron de Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Traditions et légendes de la Belgique, Tome 2, Ferdinand Claassen, Brussels,1870, classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/reinsberg_duringsfeld_baron/traditions_belgique_t2/traditions_t2.html
bullet"Sint-Baafskerk Westrozebeke (B-8840)," Kerken in Vlaanderen, www.kerkeninvlaanderen.be/pages/kerk_01530.htm
bullet"Westrozebeke," Wikipedia, nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westrozebeke
 

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly