Belgium-France Pilgrimage - Day 11

Tours to Paray le Monial

It was another long day of travelling from Tours to Paray le Monial broken only by a quite stop at Nevers. Since we travelled in such a confined space, it did not take long for the bug that some of us caught at Mont St Michel to make its manifestation. Quite a few a hacking away like I was. That was how the plague spread in the Middle Ages.

Pictures of the Convent of Nevers where Bernadette was after she joined the Sisters of Charity of Nevers.

I took these photos by “mistake”. There was a sign prohibiting photography. I was praying before the reliquary and saw the chance to make a quick point and shoot.

Arriving into Paray le Monial. This is the façade of the perfect romanesque structure left behind by the Cluniac monastery. Now it is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Different views of the same Basilica.

The Chapel of the Apparition. Again, I did not see the sign that says, “No picture taking”. Here are pictures of the exterior and the interior plus the reliquary of the coffin.

The hotel is just across from the Chapel of the Apparition. The reliquary containing the relics of St Margaret Mary Alacoque is at the right of the modern mural of the Apparition of the Sacred Heart to our dear Saint. She is surrounded by other saints who also have devotion to the Heart of Christ. Some even preceded her. You can make out St Jean Eudes as one of the figures.

Belgium-France Pilgrimage - Day 10

We did not stay in Chartres but instead wound our way to Tours. Arriving in the evening. Y’day, we had a full day tour of Tours and Poitiers. Nothing much because it involved a lot driving. Our hotel was just outside Tours. We walking through some features of the city and then after lunch made our way to Poitiers. We had a rather flighty guide who was more interested in herself. The first Church of our Lady had a wedding and therefore nothing we could do about it except to peek in. Mass at 5pm also did not materialise as the sacristan was nowhere to be found. We prayed at the Church of St Hilary as the city of Poitiers is associated with the man known otherwise as the “Athanasius of the West”. He played a major role in stopping the Arian rot that was infecting the Church in the west. The two pictures show the Northern Rose window of the Cathedral of St Gatianus of Tours and underneath the window, a relic bone of St Martin de Tours.

Almost impossible to take an “unreflected” picture of the Holy Face of Jesus. The Holy Man of Tours, Venerable Leo DuPont, who spent much of his life popularising the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

Basilica of St Martin of Tours where a part of his skull is located. However, we were unable to do enter the crypt to venerate the relic as there was Mass going on.

A bust of St Martin and outside, adjacent to the Basilica of St Martin, the Tower of Charlemagne. His wife, Luitgarde, died in AD800.

On top of the tower, a modern bas-relief of the miracle of St Martin of Tours, sharing half his of his cape with Christ, who came to him as a beggar.

The façade of the Church of the Notre-Dame-La-Grande. There was a wedding and we could not do much except having a peek inside and left for the Church of St Hilary.

Romanesque Church of St Hilary. The reliquary containing relics from the saint.

A nice mosaic in what looked like the older part of the Church. The view is above the modern day altar looking towards the Western façade. The Church is on the route of the Camino Santiago and there are signs of it here. For example, spot the scallop shell in these pictures.

Belgium-France Pilgrimage - Day 9

The rain... it came to roost yesterday. I came down with sore-throat, cough and fever. Another sign of ageing. Anyway, we departed from Lisieux and made our way to Chartres. A small city but with a Gothic cathedral that was largely unscathed from the ravages of war and nature.

The western facade would have been perfect without the intrusion of the building to the left.

Apart from the labyrinth, the Cathedral is famed for its Sancta Camisa, the tunic worn by Mary at the birth of Jesus. The Western Façade rose window has as its centre the Christ and when the light penetrates the stained glass, the centre illustrated is where one will discover Christ as one walked into the centre of the labyrinth. We were lucky. Usually the area surrounding the labyrinth will have chars on it but Friday is when they remove the chairs for those who like to tread the path of the labyrinth. These days, many people who are into New Ageism, are the ones who are interested in it...

The other pictures are of the Sancta Camisa or the holy tunic of Mary. The reliquary is placed behind grills and taking a perfect shot was next to impossible. During the French Revolution, the tunic was cut into pieces. But, they were preserved by individuals who returned them to the Cathedral. That explains why the relic can be seen in the crypt as well as within the Cathedral.

The last time I came here was in the late 90s and as was the case of most Cathedrals, it was dark in the interior. It might as well be the American Goth. Dark and depressing. The beauty of the Gothic architecture lies in its light. The buildings were built to allow light to illuminate its interior. Some pictures post-renovation. The rood has been cleaned and it’s catechetical function can be fully appreciated.

A before restoration and an after. Our Lady of the Pillar. Dark and black and now light and beautiful.

The rood is beautiful restored. The Annunciation and the Visitation. The birth of Christ and the Baptism of Christ. Beautifully.

Stones well-worn by devotion and prayers.

A reminder that life is truly a pilgrimage. Starting from Chartres Cathedral, one would have walked twice the distance to Santiago de Compostela.