La Garde Freinet, France: Our Lady of Miremer
About Our Lady of Miremer:
The Chapel of Saint Jean devoted to Our Lady of Miremer is one of France’s little-known destinations. Due to its hill-top location it was used for strategic purposes dating back to the times of the Roman occupation (traces of which are still evident today).
What is relevant to us today, is an event that took place in 1721. A local shepherdess, Marie, was tending to her goats when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her standing on a rock and instructed her to tell the villagers to build a chapel on that spot. Marie had been dumb and unable to speak from birth, but as she eagerly ran home she was cured.
Later on, her house and the land at the foot of the hill of Miremer were called “la Béate” (the blissful one) referring to the state of the little girl.
The chapel (built over the rock) remains to this day and on September 8th each year (Feast of the Nativity), an annual pilgrimage takes place involving not only the villagers of La Garde-Freinet but also nearby villages as well as the priests of the parishes of the bay of Saint-Tropez.
The pilgrimage begins with morning Mass under the oak-trees outside. Priests are available for confession and then everyone picnics on the grass. In the afternoon there is a rosary procession around the chapel led by four men carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary.
The hymn to the Virgin, sung in Provençal in the old days, is now more often sung in French. The day ends with a bow to Blesses Sacrament.
In addition to the 8th of September, which is the main pilgrimage, people meet at Miremer on Easter Monday and at Whitsuntide (Pentecost Sunday). Sometimes there are meetings for the children who go to catechism.
During centuries pilgrims have left many tokens of faith, often in the form of ex-votos (little paintings). There are now thirteen left, recently restored. These are thanksgiving gifts for the fulfillment of a wish or to thank God’s protection. The first of them dates back to 1721. others have been put there to tell the happy end of accidents, illnesses, or other events. Some pilgrims have offered jewels, earrings, chains, brooches, hearts of devotion (little hearts with a lid in which one puts wishes or thanks). The artificial leg of a child is also displayed. Unfortunately some items were stolen and so today these offerings are secured in showcases.
It is pointed out that the Blessed Virgin Mary is often represented holding Baby Jesus in her arms to show plainly that Christ acts through her.
Traveling to La Garde Freinet:
La Garde Freinet is on the south coast of France. The closest major city is Saint Tropez…easily accessable by air or train. From there a taxi is your best bet. Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here.
Address: 83680 La Garde-Freinet
GPS coordinates: 43° 17′ 46.2660” N, 6° 29′ 5.8380” E
Click here for the local tourism site with an explanation.
Photos and material courtesy www.la-garde-freinet-tourisme.fr