The apparition at Pontmain is in some ways one of the most popular and most limpid of Marian apparitions due to its harmonious simplicity and brevity.
The Story of the Apparition
It was winter and France was at war. The Prussian troops were winning against those of Napoleon III. On September 19, 1870, they began the siege of Paris and on January 12, 1871, they started marching towards the west.
The invaders were nearing Laval, just 50 miles south of the small village of Pontmain. Moreover, out of a population of 500 inhabitants, 38 young men had been called up to fight in the war and there was no news from them. On January 17, 1871, anguish and despondency were widespread. It was bitterly cold. Snow covered the ground and the rooftops.
The sky was cloudless when the starry night came. Eleven-year-old Eugene Barbedette and his younger brother Joseph were helping their father in the barn. Eugene opened the barn door and looked outside to check the weather. It was then that he saw above the house opposite a beautiful Lady wearing a blue dress sprinkled with gold stars (similar to those on the ceiling of the local church). She was looking at him and smiling with her arms stretched out in front of her in a gesture of welcome.
The children saw the Blessed Virgin
Eugene was seized and taken aback. Other children saw the vision too. The villagers ran towards the barn to see what was happening. The priest and the sisters from the school organized a vigil of prayer, held outside in the snow and cold.
While they recited the Rosary, followed by the Magnificat, a banner unfolded over the roof of the house, in a vision. Letter by letter, a message appeared and was read aloud by the children, while the bystanders sang the litanies of the Virgin, the Inviolata and the Salve Regina. A blue oval with four candles framed the beautiful Lady.
Oh! Do pray my children, God will answer your prayers very soon. My son lets his heart be touched!
The apparition confirmed her exhortation with a smile. Fervor grew and the children showed their joy: "Oh! How beautiful she is!" Then all of a sudden, the children became sad, seeing that the Virgin Mary's face was marked by a look of deep distress.
Mary shows Jesus
A large crucifix appeared that Our Lady held in front of her with both hands, slightly tilted. Mary showed the red cross to the children. At the top of the crucifix, on a white crosspiece, the name of Jesus Christ was written in red. A small star lit the four candles in the oval. Everyone prayed in silence. They sang Ave Maris Stella, then the red crucifix disappeared. Mary resumed her original stance, with her hands outstretched.
Soon a small white cross appeared on each of her shoulders. Everyone knelt down in the snow for the evening prayer. A white veil covered Our Lady from head to foot. "It's over," the children said. They all went home, feeling comforted. Eleven days later the armistice was signed. The Prussians never entered Laval. All soldiers from the village successively returned home unharmed.
Pilgrims flocked in
Graces of many kinds were obtained. The seers became priests and religious, faithfully serving God all their lives, without any show or motivation for being beatified some day. The apparition at Pontmain is exemplary for its simplicity; taking place in the middle of a small village, accompanied by humble, improvised and fervent prayer in complete and quiet obscurity.
The apparition was approved
The stream of pilgrims grew steadily over the years, as many people began to make the journey to Pontmain, by cart or often on foot, and sometimes coming from very far afield. Soon a chapel was built.
Less than a year later the Bishop of Laval blessed the first stone of the shrine and approved the truth of the apparition. In October 1900, the big church was consecrated. In September 1908 the Basilica of Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain was solemnly dedicated in the presence of two archbishops, four bishops, six hundred priests and 1,500 pilgrims.
Accommodations in Pontmain
The Basilica of Our Lady of Hope welcomes visitors year round. You can find a wide selection of places to stay during your visit:
- Auberge de l'Espérance: 011 (33) 243.05.08.10
- Relais le Bocage: 011 (33) 243.30.26.00
- Vacation rentals: http://gite-laloussaudrie.com
The Chapel of Light
Open day and night for prayer, the Chapel of Light was conceived and fitted out for the Marian year (1987-1988), getting its name from the candles given by pilgrims to be lighted.
The Chapel of the Virgin
On entering the church one's eye is caught by the stained glass windows depicting the apparition of Our Lady with a dominant blue color.
The shrine offers many worship opportunities: Mass, etc.
Pastoral Center of the Shrine
Our Lady of Pontmain
3, rue Notre-Dame
Tel: 011 (33) 243.05.07.26