A Basilica for Saint Anne

A night of pardons and music in a famous Franch chapel

Posted in , Oct 1, 2014

Today's guest blogger is Meg Belviso. She recently took a spiritual tour of France. Here's the third installment about her travels.

The Basilica of Sainte Anne d’Auray in Brittany might not be known to many Americans. But for thousands of pilgrims, it is a holy site in #SpiritualFrance. Back in the 17th century a simple farmer named Yvon Nicolazic saw a vision of Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary.

Basilica of Sainte-Anne d'AurayShe told him that God commanded him to rebuild a chapel that had once stood in her name. The small chapel built on the strength of these visions eventually had to grow into a large basilica to hold the many people who came to see the site. The most famous of these pilgrims was Pope John Paul II in 1996.

On my visit to Sainte-Anne d’Auray I took a tour with Bruno Belliot, the musical director at the basilica. Born in Brittany, M. Belliot was happy to show me a current exhibit celebrating one of the unique traditions of the region: the pardon.

Probably dating all the way back to the first days of Christianity in France, a pardon is a ceremony were people ask forgiveness for their sins. People join a colorful procession, often carrying symbols of the ways God has worked in their lives.

For instance, many sailors have come with bits of the shipwreck from which God saved them. Those saved from a fire might carry a ladder to show how God helped them escape.

The religious services are followed by picnics, dancing and entertainment–including traditional wrestling matches! Of course, as musical director M. Belliot couldn’t think of these celebrations without talking about the Breton music that went with them.

The basilica at Sainte-Anne d’Auray holds one of the finest organs in the world. On the night I spent in Sainte-Anne’s, we were treated to a private concert in the church where we heard traditional Breton music played on the organ accompanied by bombards, a double-reed instrument somewhat like an oboe.

“Whenever I hear this music, I feel like I’m home,” he said. It’s no wonder he couldn’t stop himself singing along–in Breton–to the music.

For more on Spiritual France, check out Atout France Facebook and Twitter

You can read Meg's first intallment and second installment about her trip around spiritual France!

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