August 30

Notre-Dame de la Délivrande, Morne-Rouge, Saint-Pierre, Martinique

In 1851, Étienne-Jean-François Le Herpeur, rector of the pilgrimage church of Notre-Dame de la Délivrande in Douvres, Normandy, became the first Catholic bishop of Martinique, a French island in the eastern Caribbean. During a storm at sea en route to his new post, Msgr. Le Herpeur vowed that if saved he would build a chapel to Our Lady of Délivrande and consecrate his diocese to her. On March 25, feast of the Annunciation, the storm subsided.   

Just as his party arrived, an epidemic of yellow fever struck. The group took refuge in the heights of the Saint-Pierre district, in a wooded and sparsely settled area at the foot of Mount Pelée. To honor his vow, the new bishop chose to build a sanctuary there at a place called Morne Rouge (Red Hill), which resembled his native land. On December 13, 1851, he issued a decree establishing the "diocesan shrine to Our Lady of Délivrande." From a Norman artist he commissioned a statue of the Virgin, which reached Martinique in February 1853. The wooden church was completed in time for the statue's coronation on December 8, 1868. 

When the shrine grew larger, evolving from a modest chapel into a true church with nave, transepts, and bell tower, the Holy Spirit Fathers came to direct it. In 1891, a terrible cyclone devastated the town and sanctuary, leaving nothing but ruins, but the statue remained intact. Thanks to the work of volunteers, a new stone church was completed in 1897. 

But on August 30, 1902 Mount Pelée erupted. The town of Saint-Pierre was completely destroyed, without only 3 of 30,000 people surviving. The church of Notre-Dame de la Délivrande lost its roof and all its furnishings except the statue. Rebuilding took until 1912. Preceded by a novena, an annual pilgrimage commemorates the eruption and the continuing presence of Our Lady in Martinique.

Sources include:

bulletAbbé Patrick-Alexis, "Les homélies du mois de aout," Épi gràs Bondyé,
bullet"Martinique," Marie de Nazareth, 
bullet"L'église Notre-Dame de la Délivrande du Morne-Rouge," Martinique Découverte,
bullet"98: Martinique: ND de Délivrance," Notre Dame de France, la Vierge Pélerine,

Also commemorated this date:

bulletNotre-Dame du Suffrage, Brussels, Belgium (Our Lady of Intercession). Confraternity established at Church of the Madeleine, 1697.
bulletNotre Dame des Dunes, Dunkirk, Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Procession & blessing of sea Aug. 15; annual novena Aug. 30 - Sep. 8.
bulletMaria im Elende, Bleicherode, Nordhausen, Thuringia, Germany. "Church of Roses" completed on apparition site, 1419.
bulletMadonna del Boschetto, Camogli, Genova, Liguria, Italy (Madonna of the Grove). Painting crowned, 1818, at 1518 apparition site.
bulletNuestra Señora del Perdón, Cizur, Pamplona, Navarre, Spain, Astráin district. Romería to mountain location of original chapel.
bulletOur Mother of Africa, Washington, D.C., USA. Chapel in Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception dedicated, 1997.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly