René Xavier Lamey, MAfr, Archivist in Rome (+1993)
Jacques Casier, MAfr, Archivist in Brussels (+1998)
Faraway origin and history of a statue
Our Lady of Africa is dear to us, White Fathers and White Sisters, in more ways than one. The subject of this article will certainly interest the members of the two Missionary Societies founded by Cardinal Lavigerie, placed since their origin under the protection of Mary Immaculate, Queen of Africa.
It is thanks to the diligent research of Father Cazaunau, a former of the parish of ND of Africa, about the origins of the statue, and the information of Father Cougoulat, a member of the current community of this post, concerning the various ” taken from habit “of the Virgin, that this article was able to see the day. May they be thanked.
Born in Chaumont in 1698, died in Paris in 1762, Edme Bouchardon was one of those statuaries of the French school who kept during the eighteenth century the great style of the artists of the century of Louis XIV.
Resident of the Academy of St. Luke in Rome in 1722, he performed several works, including the busts of Clement XII and the cardinals of Polignac and Rohan. Recalled in Paris by Louis XV in 1732, named sculptor of the king, he was responsible for many works for Grosbois, Versailles and other parks, squares and residences. His capital works were numerous, but the hammer of the revolutionaries did not respect them all: the Human Rights existed on paper, but not in practice … Today, we can still contemplate its admirable fountain of Four Seasons from the rue de Grenelle in Paris. Voltaire gave him a place of choice in his Temple of Taste (1733).
At St. Sulpice, he executed several sculptures: Christ, the Virgin and eight apostles. What interests us here is this statue of Mary, said Virgin of Bouchardon. What to think of this one?
We can no longer, unfortunately, judge that by a print engraved by Sornique around 1744. It is titled: “The Blessed Virgin, executed in silver, after the model of Ed. Bouchardon, sculptor of Roy … , by G. Chevallier. ” In the parish bulletin of St-Sulpice, August 25, 1912, we read: “This engraving gives us the most favorable idea of the work of Bouchardon (…) It was reproduced (…) very often and endlessly popularized by the Miraculous Medal … “(René Laurentin, Authentic Life of Catherine Labouré (1981).
A hundred years later, the career of the “Prince of diplomats” or the “lame Devil”, the Prince de Talleyrand-Périgord, defrocked bishop, the Dictionary of Weathercocks placed in the lead of those who had turned with the wind since the French Revolution of 1789, was at the end of his roll. Bishop de Quelen, Archbishop of Paris, never ceased to pray for the conversion of Talleyrand. The latter, basically, did not harbor any hatred against the Church: ordained priest without vocation, the Revolution had allowed him to find a social position in keeping with his ambitions.
Bishop de Quelen had promised to N.D. of the Délivrande (Calvados) – his favorite pilgrimage – to offer to this convent a statue of the Virgin, if he obtained this conversion. His prayer was answered.
The instrument of this reconciliation, Father Dupanloup, Superior of the Seminary of St-Nicolas du Chardonnet (The young Lavigerie will enter in 1841), tells Mr. Michel, his friend and headmaster of the Ecole Normale de Paris , “all the various circumstances of his relations with Mr. Talleyrand and the edifying death of this great personage.”
Bishop de Quelen ordered a statue on the model of the “Virgin of Bouchardon”. “This statue, 3 to 4 feet high, is bronze (…) On the front (…) is the inscription Virgo Fidelis.” It was inaugurated on September 8, 1838 at the Délivrande. It is still there nowadays.
Returning to the archbishop’s palace, Bishop de Quelen ordered a second similar statue which he had erected in the entrance courtyard of the convent of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart, rue de Varenne in Paris, in recognition of the hospitality he he was there when he was expelled from the archbishop’s palace in 1830. It was there that he died on December 31, 1839. (This second statue is no longer in Paris.) At the time of the Decrees of Expulsion against Religious Congregations, it was transported to Jette, a suburb of Brussels, where it is still today).
A month later, on February 5, 1840, Mgr Dupuch, since 1838 first bishop of Algiers (August 8, 1838 is in fact the date of the restoration of this siege which was founded in the second century, under the name of Icosium) , went to France to find priests and resources for his young diocese. On his program, visit the houses of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart of France and Belgium. Former chaplain of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart of Bordeaux, he knew their generosity. On March 12, he was in Lyon where he presided over a general and extraordinary assembly of the Children of Mary of the Sacred Heart of Ferrandière (In July 1907, the Ladies of the Sacred Heart were expelled and took the road to exile. The property was divided into lots, and in 1937 the White Fathers were able to buy the lot which included the chapel and procured it (Villeurbanne).
Bishop Dupuch celebrated Mass and “gave us the most interesting details about the missions in Algeria (…) The Congregation promised him a statue of the Blessed Virgin (…) and Monsignor was entrusted with to order himself in Paris where he goes. “
Arrived in the capital, in the middle of many occupations, Mgr Dupuch makes a visit to the Ladies of the Sacred Heart of the street of Varenne. He sees the statue of Virgo Fidelis – the second copy of the Virgin of Bouchardon – the one that Bishop de Quélen had offered to the nuns of this convent a year earlier. He is immediately conquered. A copy is made quickly, thanks to the mold that still existed, and, May 5, in Lyon, it is offered to him by the Children of Mary of Ferrandière: It is the statue which will be called later Notre-Dame Africa. (In 1856, Bishop Pavy set up a commission to find the necessary resources for the construction of the temporary chapel, and to stop the term under which the statue and the pilgrimage to public veneration would be designated. that of Our Lady of Africa which was accepted unanimously.)
The following is well known. The statue was first placed on the terrace of the bishop’s house, then, in 1843, loaned to the Trappists of Staouéli who installed it above the door of their monastery with this inscription: “They chose me for guardian “.
In 1846, Bishop Pavy, a native of the diocese of Lyon, succeeded Bishop Dupuch. The new bishop knew nothing about the odyssey of the “Virgo Fidelis”. A letter of March 21st, 1855, came to inform him of it. The Ladies of the Sacred Heart of Lyons, having heard that the Bishop of Algiers proposed to raise a shrine to Mary, told her how happy they would be to see the Virgin offered to her predecessor.
Information taken, Bishop Pavy immediately went to La Trappe to claim the statue. The fathers replied to the bishop that the statue belonged to him, but that they would not do to their mother the insult of bringing it down themselves from the place where they had put it. Bishop Pavy took charge of the operation and the next day the statue left for Notre Dame du Ravin (Small chapel founded by the two Demoiselles of N.D. de Fourvières, Agarithe and Anna, who had dedicated their lives to the diocese of Algiers).
On September 20, 1857, the “Virgo Fidelis”, now Our Lady of Africa, was installed in the temporary chapel, next to what will be the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, whose work began on February 2, 1858.
On November 14, 1866, Bishop Pavy died. His successor, Mgr Lavigerie, completed the construction of the church, which was consecrated by him on July 2, 1872. On May 4 of the following year, he installed the statue of Our Lady of Africa in the new sanctuary.
A few years later, Bishop Lavigerie asked Pius IX for the coronation favor for the statue of Our Lady of Africa. On April 30, 1876, after the reading of the two Brief Pontificals, a precious diadem was placed on the head of the Virgin. From this day, the church of Our Lady of Africa became Basilica.
On August 8, 1885, a lady from Blida offered to make at her expense a dress for the Blessed Virgin. The Fathers accept with gratitude and pray – the benefactress to address the Carmelites for the accomplishment of his pious purpose. It is the diary of Our Lady of Africa who informs us. This same diary, on December 19th, reports that a “subscription, for the purchase of a robe to the Blessed Virgin, is open …” No doubt to complete the gift of the first benefactress. The fact remains that the diary declares April 29, 1886 that “the number of ex-votos deposited in the sacristy of Our Lady of Africa, was 22 during the month of April, not to mention the rich dress of the Virgin embroidered by the Carmelites of Bugeaud, and due to the subscriptions of many faithful. ” According to a photo, in black and white, published in 1914 this dress was very clear, dotted with embroidered motifs, hexagonal, similar to snowflakes, about the size of the palm of a large hand. In the center, at the height of the chest, a heart, embroidered too.
In 1925, Sister Marie Claver (Odette Grandin of the Eprevier), s.b., niece of Mother Marie Claver, made a new dress. We do not speak explicitly of mantle. (Conducted by Cardinal Lavigerie, she became Assistant to the White Sisters and died in Mpala (Zaire) in 1905. The important correspondence between her and the Cardinal is very interesting for those who wish to better understand the spirituality of our Founder.)
In 1950, Sister Emmeran (Yvonne Menjou-Marcat), Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, embroidered a new dress and a coat. She introduced into the thick golden roses the names of the Sisters of her community. It is the day of the feast of Our Lady of Africa (April 30), that the statue was dressed in his new costume. The stuff, the gold threads, etc. were paid by subscription to the Women’s League of Catholic Action.
(Diary of Our Lady of Africa, on April 30, 1950. – A black and white photograph of this new costume in Great Lakes, No. 176, Nov. 1954, p. that a very beautiful picture of the basilica with, at its side, said temporary chapel.-In 1956, Mr. Deckers made an oil portrait of the statue, at the request of Father Cazaunau, who offered it to Mgr. Durrieu for the chapel of the Generalate House, pictures and postcards, still in progress, were taken from this painting.)
The Painting at the General House in Rome
New “taking of habit” on December 7, 1985, in the presence of Cardinal Duval, made by Brother Roméo Lamoureux who celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first oath, and did not suspect then that a commonplace accident, six months later had to bring him to finish with Heaven, with Mary, those years of extraordinary devotion. (PETIT ECHO, 1987/2, pp. 133-140.)
The fabrics had been donated by benefactors, including a cousin of a White Father, whose name I must not mention. Thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous person, the work could be entrusted to a Tlemcennian master embroiderer.
I finish by quoting Sister Germaine Marie (Marguerite Laporte), White Sisters: “The embroidery was executed according to the traditional technique of” Medjdoub “, also practiced in France under the name of” guipé “(…) The reasons, since the most important to the finest stems, are cut in a light leather by the master embroiderer who has them and glue them on the velvet before delivering them to the embroiderers.They cover them with gold threads that do not cross not the fabric, but that, from the back, a thread of linen draws and fix from one side to the other of the leather, hence the name “Medjdoub” which comes from the Arabic verb “to draw”. Sœurs Blanches collaborated in the preparation, the follow-up and the assembly of this work which lasted three months.Thus adorned with the beautiful work of a craftsman of the country, the Blessed Virgin blesses the people who venerate her, from the top of her podium of ceramics due, too, to an Algerian artist. “
The blessing of Our Lady of Africa, we are convinced, also extends to all Africa and to all those who, although belonging to a multitude of communities, form together, all together, a single and large family, fulfill the function assigned to them and contribute their share to the common work for Africa.
René Xavier Lamey, Archivist of the White Fathers in Rome (+1993)
Note: The canopy above the statue was removed when it was about to collapse, eaten by rust, worms and moisture. It was made of plaster, of wood and with a slight fixation in iron. He was kidnapped in 2007 before a catastrophe brought down the statue of Our Lady of Africa. The decision was made with the architect, the archbishop and the confreres of ND. of AfricaA. Since then, it turns out that the inscription “Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for Muslims” is readable everywhere. The baldachin hid a large part.
Article by Jacques Casier, MAfr
The statue that served as a model for that of N-D Africa is in Belgium. She is currently in Jette (Brussels) at the convent of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, Avenue du Sacre-Coeur No. 8; it is in the garden of the institute.
This statue was in Paris, rue de Varenne in the park of the Institute of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart of Saint Sophie Barat.
Emile Combes, President of the Council of Ministers from 1902 to 1905, who led an anti-clerical policy in France, enacted laws against the Church and against religious congregations. The Ladies of the Sacred Heart were expropriated. But when almost everything was removed they preserved the statue of the Virgin Mary “Virgo Fidelis” and brought it to Jette (Brussels), where the site was restored in the garden in 1904-05.
We have a 1958 letter (photocopy) describing the state of affairs in Paris as we found it in 1927:
“Monsieur G. de Grandmaison, wishing to remedy the state of the virgin forest where our old garden (of the rue de Varenne) is located and maintained with beautiful landscape ideas from sites online, the curator has methodically proceeded, but we have just arrived at the central roundabout where was still a half-broken section of our column of the Virgin Faithful (transported to Jette). When we dug to remove it, we found a perfectly preserved stone basin (we knew, indeed that in 1835, the Mother of Gramont had the basin of Le Nôtre filled, raise the mound and place the statue), and in this basin was placed a well-welded lead box, and when it was opened, a parchment was found, the ink of which is so yellow that the writing is difficult to read, but one distinguishes very well the names Barat, Gramont, Quélen, medals including a great medal Miraculous (1832) and a coin of Louis Philippe “
This bronze statue bears on its base the inscription “Virgo Fidelis”. The whole is in Jette also placed on a high column. The foot of the column is on three sides a marble plaque with a Latin inscription explaining the qualifier:
Fidelis in Laudando
Magnificat anima mea Dominum
Et exsultavit spiritus meus
In Deo salutari meo
Faithful in praise
Fidelis in quaerendo
Fili quid fecisti nobis sic
Ecce Pater tuus et Ego
Dolentes quaerebamus Te
Faithful in research
Fidelis in compatiendo
Stabat juxta crucem Jesu
Et soror matris Eius Maria Cleophae
Et Maria Magdalenae
Faithful in compassion
The statue of the “Faithful Virgin” of Jette is itself the culmination of a whole story. The oldest model is a statue made by Edme Bouchardon (16981762), one of the statuaries of the French school who kept during the eighteenth century the great style of the artists of the century of Louis XIV. In St Sulpice he executed several statues including this statue of Mary, said “Virgin of Bouchardon”.
We can not judge any more than on engraving engraved by Sornique around 1744.It is entitled: “The Blessed Virgin executed in silver, according to the model of Edme Bouchardon, sculptor of the King, by G. Chevalier.” This Virgin of Bouchardon was reproduced very often and popularized to infinity by the Miraculous Medal of St. Catherine Labouré.
The Virgin with the smile of St. Therese of the Child Jesus is also a reproduction of the Virgin of Bouchardon.
Bishop de Quélen, Archbishop of Paris, had promised to offer to his Majesty the Deliverance (Calvados), his favorite pilgrimage, a statue of the Virgin, if he obtained the conversion of Talleyrand. His prayer was answered. He ordered a statue on the model of the “Virgin of Bouchardon” in 1838.This statue of about 1.20m high was bronze. On the front of the base is the inscription “Virgo Fidelis”. It was inaugurated on September 8, 1838 at La Délivrande and it is still there.
Returning to the archbishop’s palace in 1839, Bishop de Quélen ordered a second similar statue which he erected in the entrance courtyard of the Convent of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart, rue de Varenne in Paris, in recognition of the hospitality he had received when he was expelled from the archbishop’s palace in 1830. It was there that he died on December 31, 1839.
Our Lady of Africa
Bishop Dupuch, since 1838 first bishop of Algiers, went to France on March 12, 1840 for a quest visit in the homes of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. On March 12 he stopped at Lyon at Ferrandiere and presided over a general and extraordinary meeting of the Children of Mary of the Institute of the Sacred Heart. The Congregation promised him a statue of his choice. During a visit to the Ladies of the Sacred Heart of the rue de Varenne in Paris he was immediately conquered by Bouchardon’s “Virgo Fidelis”, which he lives in the garden. A copy was made quickly, thanks to the mold that still existed. On May 5, 1840 in Lyon the Children of Marie de la Ferrandière offered it to him (x).
(x) In July 1907 the Ladies of the Sacred Heart of Lyon were expelled and took the road to exile. The property was divided into lots. In 1937 the White Fathers were able to buy the lot which included the chapel and made their purchase (Villeurbanne).
The statue is bronze so that the face and hands appear black when the statue is dressed; so we sometimes speak of a black virgin.
It will be called this statue in 1856 Our Lady of Africa, when Bishop Pavy in Algiers will have asked for the opinion of a commission. Several names had been put forward, but in the end, that of N.D. Africa was unanimously adopted.
In Algiers the statue was first placed in the bishop’s palace, then in 1843, on loan to the Trappists of Staoueli, who installed it above the door of their monastery.
En 1846, Mgr Pavy, originaire du diocèse de Lyon, succédait à Mgr Dupuch. Les Dames du Sacré-Coeur de Lyon lui firent savoir par une lettre du 21 mars 1855 qu’elles aimeraient bien voir leur statue honorée dans le sanctuaire que l’évêque voulait faire ériger pour la Sainte Vierge. Mgr Pavy, qui ignorait toute l’histoire de la statue,la redemanda à Staouéli en 1856 et la “Vierge Fidèle” désormais nommée N.D. d’Afrique fut placée à la chapelle St Joseph à la vallée des Conseils.
On September 20, 1857 it was erected in the temporary chapel, next to what will be the Basilica of N.D. Africa whose work began on February 2, 1858.
On November 14, 1866, Bishop Pavy died. His successor, Mgr Lavigerie completed the construction of the church which was consecrated by him on July 2, 1872.
In the spring of 1873, the White Fathers took possession of the church considered the cradle of the Society. Today there are still confreres who minister to it.
The installation of the statue of N.D of Africa took place on May 4, 1873 during the celebration of the Council of Algiers. Strong hands carried the statue in the long procession of opening which went up the hill and the plateau of Bouzareah to the song of the Ave Maris stella.
Conciliar Assembly with Archbishop Lavigerie in the center
A few years later, Mgr. Lavigerie asked Pius IX the favor of the coronation for the statue of N.D. of Africa. On April 30, 1876 a precious diadem was placed on the head of the Virgin. From that day, the church of N.D of Africa became Basilica.
Jacques Casier, MAfr, Archiviste à Bruxelles (+1998)