Annecy, France: Basilica of the Visitation, the relics of St. Francis de Sales & St. Jane de Chantal
The area of Southeastern France offers some of the country’s most magnificent scenery, with the Alps towering above, bordering both Switzerland and Italy. And it is in this setting that you will find the Basilica of the Visitation that houses the relics of two famous saints: Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal.
Their relics were originally contained in the Church of Saint Francis de Sales, but like so many others it was vandalized and converted to other uses during the French revolution.
About St. Francis de Sales:
Born in 1567, Francis de Sales helped to lead the counter-reformation. Although from France, he was appointed bishop of Geneva, but had to remain in Annecy since Geneva was firmly under Calvinist control. In addition to his being an excellent preacher he, along with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, founded the women’s Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitandines) here in 1610.
He was proclaimed Patron Saint of writers and journalists by Pope Pius XI. St. Francis developed a sign language in order to teach a deaf man about God. Because of this, he is the patron saint of the deaf. Also, the Sisters of Saint Joseph count him as one of their patrons.
Upon his death, his body was embalmed ( and therefor he is not incorrupt) and brought to Annecy. His heart had been removed and is preserved in the Church of the Visitation in Lyons, in a golden shrine given by Louis XIII.
He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1877 and his Feast Day is January 29.
About Saint Jeanne de Chantal:
Born to a noble family Jeanne lost her mother when she was 18 months old, and then her father, finally living with her father-in-law who was a very unpleasant man. In 1604 she met Saint Francis de Sales, and having had a vision earlier in life that she would meet a man who would become her spiritual director, she recognized him from the vision. The two corresponded for years, and in 1610 she founded the Order of the Visitation of Our Lady here in Annecy. Although she encountered much resistance, she eventually went on to found 69 convents and the order continues to this day.of the orders, and Jeanne oversaw the founding of 69 convents.
You will find her body here in the Basilica of the Visitation.
Her Feast Day is now August 12, having been moved from December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
About the Basilica of the Visitation:
The Basilica has now been re-consecrated as a Church, the relics are housed in the Basilica of the Visitation, which is actually a fairly modern building dating from the 1930’s. There are inside beautiful mosaics and stained glass windows that recount the life of St. François de Sales and Jeanne de Chantal, whose bronze caskets are exposed, and a masterpiece of casting Paccard; a carillon of 36 bells.
Also present nearby is a community of Visitation nuns, the order founded by Saint Jane Frances de Chantal.
Of note also is the tabernacle configured to look like the tree of Jesse. There is a gift shop here as well. The Basilica does close from noon until 2:00 p.m., so keep that in mind, since it is a bit of a climb to the Basilica from the street below.
Traveling to Annecy:
Annecy is accessible by train from many cities in France. About two hours by train from Lyon on Regional Express (RE) trains, or about 4 hours from Paris on the TGV. It is also less than two hours from Geneva, Switzerland. The Basilica is about one mile from the train station. Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here
Address: 20 Avenue de la Visitation, 74000 Annecy
GPS coordinates: 45° 53′ 32.5572” N, 6° 7′ 39.8352” E
Tel: + 33 04-50-45-22 76 (only speak French).
Click here for website of the Basilica (in French).