Built in Paris under the reign of Louis XIII, the Sanctuary ‘Notre-Dame des Victoires’ is one of the most world famous Marian sites, known for the many graces granted by the Virgin Mary.
Louis XIII founded Our Lady of Victories in 1629 to answer the call of friars seeking finance for the building of a new monastery.
The King expressed the wish that the church would be dedicated and consecrated to the Blessed Virgin, under the name of ‘Notre-Dame des victoires’, in gratitude for all the victories he had won thanks to Her protection, in particular facing the rebelling Protestants of La Rochelle. The first cornerstone of the building was laid on Sunday December 1629 by the monarch himself.
In November 1637, the Virgin Mary appeared to a friar of the monastery, Brother Fiacre. She presented to him “the child that God wants to give to France”, the future Louis XIV, long awaited heir to the Kingdom. On four occasions, between 1 and 4 am, the friar saw before him the Mother of Christ accompanied first by the royal child, and then by Jesus Christ.
The Virgin Mary asked that three novenas be made to our Lady of Cotignac. Having informed the royal couple, he did so between November 8th December 5th 1637.
On September 5th of the same year, Anne d’Autriche gave birth to a son – Louis Dieudonné (‘God given’). The gazette ‘La Gazette de France’ could now publish : “one year ago, a friar informed the Queen that she would give birth to a son”.
Following this revelation and the subsequent miraculous pregnancy of the Queen, Louis XIII expressed the wish to consecrated France to the Virgin Mary. On January 6th 1638, the decision was made to celebrate this public consecration on August 15th of the same year in ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’.
Three centuries later, on August 15th 1938, Prince Xavier, Head of the House of Bourbon, repeated the gesture of his ancestor consecrating France to Our Lady of Victories, by solemnly placing a text at the foot of the statue of the Mother God.
In 1674, Brother Friar, on his way back from a royal mission in Italy where he had discovered Our Lady of Savone, erected a chapel to Our Lady of Victories which was solemnly blessed on April 2nd. Bowed down before the worshipped image, the friar asked the Virgin to be in this chapel the refuge of sinners and to grant France the same protection as for Italian inhabitants.
During the French Revolution – as the friars had been chased away and the church closed – the famous statue, made in Genoa, dressed in a white coat and wearing a gold crown, disappeared with the treasures of the monastery. It was only in November 1809 that the church – being occupied by the Trade Exchange since 1796, by the decision of the Directoire, and after seven years of negotiations with the Exchange – recovered its name of ‘Notre-Dame des Victoires’.
In 1836, Father Charles-Eléonore Dufriche Desgenettes – depressed with the lack of interest of the parishioners and ready to renounce his ministry -, heard on his way to the altar, twice the following instruction : “Consecrated your parish to the Very Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary”. In an act of faith, the priest chose to leave the successful outcome of his parish pastoral mission to the Virgin and decided to create a prayer association to worship the Immaculate Heart of the Very Holy Virgin in order to receive the conversion of sinners thanks to the protection of Mary.
This association met for the first time on Sunday December 11th 1836. The parish priest of ‘Notre-Dame des Victoires’ saw a large increase in the congregation : some 500 were present for Vespers, whereas only ten had attended the morning mass.
Did the exceptional development of this association of Marian prayers – which crossed the world -, originally founded by Father Desgenettes, contribute to Pie IX’s definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate conception on December 8th 1854 ? The Pope knew how fervently the faithful had prayed for him in the church of the Very Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary. A year before the proclamation of the dogma, on July 9th 1853, he had offered a new crown to the Virgin of ‘Notre-Dame des Victoires’.