Our Lady Of Walcourt
St. Maternus then chose a place for a chapel and put the Heure Valley under the protection of the Mother of God. He carved a statue of the Virgin Mary out of wood and then placed it in the chapel. The statue of Our Lady is in a sitting position and the Child Jesus is resting His head against her bosom. Our Lady looks somewhat serious and thoughtful. Because St. Maternus died in the year 347, Walcourt can be looked upon as one of the oldest shrines of Our Lady in the world.
Many years later, around the year 992, some wicked pirates burned the chapel of Our Lady of Walcourt, but God saved the statue of Our Lady—it did not burn! During that same year, Seigneur Wilderic began the rebuilding of another chapel. Many years later, in 1026, Bishop Reginald of Liege consecrated the finished chapel, and Our Lady’s Shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage. People would travel from different areas to pray at the famous shrine of Our Lady of Walcourt.
One day, during the 1200’s, some wicked person purposely set fire to the chapel of Our Lady of Walcourt. But during the fire, the townspeople saw the holy image of Our Lady of Walcourt rise up from the middle of the flames. Lifted by an angel, or the power of God, the statue of Our Lady was carried to a nearby place called Jardinet, where it was set on the branch of a tree! The people tried to take the statue of Our Lady out of the tree, but they were not able to. God was making the statue stay in the tree for a reason.
One day Count de Rochefort, the Seigneur of Walcourt, rode out to the tree on his horse. But the horse suddenly stepped backwards because the statue of Our Lady of Walcourt was surrounded by a great number of angels! Three times the Count tried to go towards the tree, but he was unable to. For some reason, God would not allow him to go near the tree!
Suddenly the Count got an idea; he got off his horse and knelt at the base of the tree. He then made a vow to God, promising to build a monastery in that valley and to build a new chapel for the statue of Our Lady of Walcourt. Then a miracle happened. To the amazement of all the people, they saw the holy statue of Our Lady of Walcourt leave the tree and come down into the arms of Count de Rochefort! The Count then hurried back to Walcourt with the miraculous statue of Our Lady. The good Count kept his vow and built the monastery, and Cistercian Monks came and lived there. And the Count also built a beautiful chapel for the statue of Our Lady of Walcourt.
The chapel that was built by Count de Rochefort has had a number of fires in the past. In 1477, some enemies set fire to the chapel, but the statue and many articles were saved.
In 1615, a fire in the village burned about 200 houses. The chapel’s bell tower crashed to the ground and the fire did much damage to the church. During Napoleon’s War, some soldiers used the chapel as their barracks and damaged many of the statues. During this time the villagers hid a bell which the enemies wanted to use for making bullets and cannonballs. Because of this the soldiers set fire to the chapel, but the fire was put out before it did much damage to the building.
In 1914, during World War II, some German soldiers purposely set fire to the chapel, saying that the French used the tower as a lookout, to spy on them. As about 1000 soldiers watched the flames burning the chapel, a courageous priest pushed his way past the soldiers and ran into the chapel. Rushing up to the high altar he grabbed the statue of Our Lady; saving it from destruction!
Because of the many miracles worked by Our Lady of Walcourt, in 1663, the Bishop of Namur started a Confraternity in honour of Our Lady. And in 1875, Pope Pius IX ordered a papal coronation of Our Lady of Walcourt—a golden crown with jewels, was placed on the head of the miraculous statue of Our Lady.
The people of Walcourt
do something special every year in memory of the miracle of the statue
of Our Lady of Walcourt’s escape from the fire, and its being carried
to a tree in Jardinet. On Trinity Sunday, the villagers wear costumes
of the period of the 13th century. They attend Mass and have a procession
on the six mile route taken by the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Walcourt,
to and from Jardinet. Along the way are fifteen chapels, and as the people
arrive at each chapel they stop to say some prayers and sing some songs.
Gradually the group approaches a certain tree, and a villager; representing
Count de Rochefort, goes up to the tree. After saying a prayer, another
statue of Our Lady of Walcourt; already hanging in the tree, is placed
in the man’s arms. Then the villagers tear the tree apart, taking
pieces of wood as mementos of the past miracle.
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