Brittany, France: The Shrine of Saint Anne d’Auray
The story of Saint Anne d’Auray:
One of France’s most revered shrines is located in Brittany: the Shrine of St. Anne d’Auray. Dedicated to the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is the sight of an apparition of Saint Anne to a local peasant. Today it is an important pilgrimage center: When Pope John Paul II visited here in 1996 he said Mass for over 160,000 people.
Located in Northwestern France, Brittany is often considered the most Catholic area in the country. The history of Christianity dates back from the 6th Century when missionaries dedicated a chapel to Saint Anne here. But by the year 1600 the chapel was gone and only the name of the village (Keranna, which meant Saint Anne) remained. There was a man in this small village of about 500 people who steadfastly kept the faith. His name was Yves Nicolazic, and one evening in August of 1623, Yves and his brother-in-law encountered a beautiful woman as they were taking their oxen to a watering trough. The woman said nothing to the two men, and they in turn said nothing to anyone else but must have been quite perplexed.
A year later, on August 25, 1624, the lady again appeared to Yves but this time spoke to him in his native Breton language saying “I am Anne, mother of Mary. There was a chapel built here before that was dedicated to me. I ask you to build it again and take care of it because God wants me honored here”.
For some reason Yves still did not take the apparition seriously and continued his daily routine as he always had. Then on March 7, 1625 Yves suddenly saw a single candle burning on the site of the original chapel. The sight was seen by most of the villagers and upon arriving at the site they found an ancient statue of Saint Anne buried in the ground. Finally Yves realized the true purpose of the apparitions and made plans to build a chapel at the sight.
However, before he could begin the Bishop of Vannes began an investigation of the apparitions. Once the investigation was concluded and the Bishop decided that the events were indeed of supernatural origin a new chapel was built.
Although Yves later moved away from St. Anne d’Auray, he returned here in 1645 to die.
The Shrine of Saint Anne D’Auray:
Due to the popularity of the shrine, the chapel became too small to accommodate the many pilgrims and a church was built on the site of the original chapel. Finished in 1872, it was built completely of Granite and was named a Minor Basilica in 1874. The Basilica of Saint Anne d’Auray has three Masses daily plus the Sacrament of Reconciliation, vespers, the Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration.
The original statue was destroyed during the French Revolution, as were so many holy objects, so the Basilica now houses a replica of that carved in 1825. You will also find a statue of Yves as well as his remains underneath the altar that bears his name. This also the final resting place for a disbeliever named Pierre de Keriolet who lived a sinful life but later renounced his sinful lifestyle and came to believe. He later became a priest.
Saint Anne, not surprisingly, is the patron saint of Brittany. The most important dates celebrated here are the evening of July 25 through July 26 when the Feast of St. Anne is celebrated with the “Grand Pardon” beginning with confessions, Mass and candlelight procession on the 25th followed by an all-night vigil and then Masses in both French & Breton on the 26th, plus other devotions.
Traveling to the Shrine of St. Anne d’Auray:
Note that the nearest town is Auray, which can be reached by train from Paris and other major cities. The TGV takes a little over 3 hours from Paris–you get off at Auray and take a taxi from there to Saint Anne d’Auray Shrine, which is a little over 2 miles from the station. The town is also served by the airport in Nantes, but is is quite a distance, and with most flights originating in Paris we recommend the train. Get plane, train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here.
Address: 9 rue de Vannes – 56400 Sainte-Anne d’Auray
GPS coordinates: 47° 42′ 13.3164” N, 2° 57′ 10.0620” W
Tel: +33 02 97 57 68 80
email: use the contact form on their website.
Click here for the official website of the Shrine of Saint Anne d’Auray