Dedicated to Angie: for your blessed friendship (and lots of laughter and quite a few dances at the Versailles Grand Masque Ball - I still call dibs on your LED hairpiece.) Merci mon amie!
While rapid progress is being made to the "nip/tuck" of our beloved cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, let's take a P'Niche peek at yet another Notre Dame in Paris - and nope, it's not our other favorite, Notre Dame des Victories. This Notre Dame is known for a Marian apparition (or visit) and the creation of what we now call the Miraculous Medal.
Let's hop into the P'Niche Time Travel Machine (beep, beep!) and take a visit to la Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse...
The chapel on rue du Bac was constructed in 1815 and offered to the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. This order of the sisterhood was founded in Paris in 1633 by both Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac. Concerned with the poverty that surrounded them, they gathered a group of willing young women to help these, the impoverished.
Fun Fact: your P'Niche was educated by the Sisters of Charity in middle school!
Now, just a few years earlier in 1806, one Catherine Labouré was born in Burgundy, France.
Sadly, Catherine's mother passed away on October 9, 1815 (when Catherine was just a tender 9 years old). It has been stated that at the funeral service of her mother, Catherine found a statue of the Virgin Mary, gently kissing it and uttering "Now, you will be my mother."
At a young age, Catherine wished to take religious vows, but her father was opposed and sent her to Paris to work. However, it was in Paris that Catherine witnessed firsthand the suffering of the less fortunate, and entered the convent of the Daughters of Charity.
On April 21, 1830, Catherine Labouré started her novitiate (period of novice work in the sisterhood) at the convent on the Rue du Bac in Paris. It was on January 30, 1831, when she took her vows.
Wait for it...
On July 19, 1830 (the eve of the feast of Saint Paul de Vincent), she was awoken by the voice of a child calling her to the chapel. Here, she heard the Virgin Mary say to her, "God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear, you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world."
But wait - if you call now!
During her evening meditations, on November 27, 1830, Catherine stated that the Virgin Mother returned to visit her!
This time, Mary had displayed herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe; rays of light came out of her hands in the direction of a globe.
Circling the margin of the frame appeared the words "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."
Continuing to watch, Labouré noted that the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, as well as a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as the Immaculate Heart of Mary, just underneath.
When Catherine asked why some of the rays of light did not reach the earth, Mary reportedly replied, "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask."
Mary then asked her to take these images to her father confessor, directing him that these images should be put on medallions. "All who wear them will receive great graces."
And so, the Miraculous Medal was born...
Finally, in December or 1830, Catherine Labouré was visited a third and final time by the Virgin Mary.
Mother Mary confirmed the mission to Sister Catherine Labouré and advised her that "You will not see me anymore."
It was in 1832 that the very first Miraculous Medal was crafted and distributed, overseen by the holy direction of Sister Catherine.
When you visit the church today, you are greeted by a series of gorgeous bas relief pieces, depicting the life story of Sister Catherine Labouré and the creation of the Miraculous Medal.
You'll also see statues depicting the founders of the Daughters of Charity, Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac.
And lots and lots of ex-votos in gratitude!
Sister Catherine passed in 1876 and was buried on hallowed ground. However, she was exhumed 57 years later and it was found that her remains we not at all decomposed and, as well, found to be "incorruptible." Canonized in 1947, Pope Pius XII decreed her the patron saint of the infirm as well as the elderly.
She is laid within a glass case at the side of the church for all to visit.
The chapel, while petite, is a true gem, featuring vibrant and detailed mosaic tile work over the side altars by Joseph and Charles Maumejean. Completed in 1930, they radiate warmth and light.
Above the altar, you'll find a breathtaking fresco created by André Mériel-Bussy depicting angels, medals, musical instruments, and white lilies.
Here, you see Mary depicted wearing a glowing halo of 12 stars - each star representing one of the 12 apostles of Christ.
The crown that Mary wears was created by Mellerio and the official crowning took place on July 26, 1897.
And to give some more clarity on the altar and surrounding area of the chapel...
See above numbers and their corresponding meaning, starting with #1 on the top...
1. Fresco depicting the apparition on the evening of July 18, 1830
2. Statue representing the second apparition on November 27, 1830
3. Portrayal of the third apparition showing Mary with open arms in a sign of joyful welcome
4. Paintings illustrating the apparitions take form as the creation of the Miraculous Medal
5. Saint Louise de Marillac (co founder of the Sisters of Charity)
6. Saint Vincent de Paul (co founder of the Sisters of Charity)
7. The incorruptible remains of Saint Catherine Labouré
8. Chair where the Virgin Mary appears to and sat speaking with Catherine Labouré
Fast forward to 1980, when Pope John Paul II visited the chapel and revealed some of Saint Catherine Labouré's final prophesies - the yet to be realized triumph of Our Lady: “Oh, how wonderful it will be to hear, ‘Mary is Queen of the Universe… ‘ It will be a time of peace, joy, and good fortune that will last long; She will be carried as a banner and She will make a tour of the world.”
And here we are - back to present times.
Ready to visit the chapel? Yay!
Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse
140 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris
Métro: Sevres-Babylone (Lines 10, 12)
Hours Vary: Please click here for details.
Looking to purchase your own miraculous medal? Lovely!
If not in Paris near this chapel's charming gift shop, you can find a wide selection of medals and price points at Catholic Shop.
P'Niche still wears the one dear Angie offered her from the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal - and it means so much- merci!
What do you think P'Nicher? Has this made you want to make a mini pilgrimage to the site to learn more? Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!