Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Dijon, also referred to as Our Lady of Good Hope. Through our Most Blessed Mother’s gracious intervention, the city of Dijon, France, was saved not once, but twice, from invading forces. Today, one of the oldest statues of the Blessed Virgin, sometimes referred to as the “Black Virgin” rests on the altar at the Eglise Notre Dame (formerly the Abby of Saint Etienne of Dijon) in Dijon. Placed there in the 12th Century, this somewhat primitive (yet beautiful) statue has been responsible for several miracles and the saving of the city.
The first of two large-scale miracles occurred in 1513, when Mary miraculously delivered the city of Dijon from the hands of the invading German and Swiss armies. Totaling over 45,000 attackers, the invading force vastly outnumbered the Dijon defenders (numbering approximately 6,000). Moreover, the defenders had little gunpowder, few cannons, and even fewer armaments.
The Germans and Swiss were quite confident in their abilities to take Dijon, as they had been rampaging through the French countryside sacking small villages and monasteries. They had even exhumed the dead in monastic cemeteries, searching for religious treasures. Behind their invading forces, large columns of empty wagons trailed, ready to be filled with the fruits of their plunder.
Arriving at Dijon on September 8, the solemnity of the Nativity of Mary, they encircled the city. On the following day, they bombarded Dijon with heavy artillery fire, but miraculously few were injured. Every assault made on the city walls was turned back. This continued until September 11, when the Bishop of Dijon removed Our Lady of Good Hope, the “Black Virgin,” from her alter and carried her through the streets in procession. The residents of Dijon followed, praying for the intercession of the Mother of God to spare them from their deadly enemies. Unexpectedly, the following day, a peace treaty was signed, and the conflict ended. The city was liberated from siege with little loss of life. In thanksgiving, the statue was renamed Our Lady of Dijon, and general procession continues to be made each year. In 1515, a tapestry was commissioned to celebrate the miraculous deliverance wrought through her care. The tapestry, recently restored, is striking, with a deep red background, Our Lady standing in gigantic posture astride the city walls, the tiny citizens huddling about her gown. The word TERRIBILIS is embroidered above it all.
The statue of Our Lady of Dijon was replaced on the altar, but was damaged during the French Revolution when the Church of Our Lady was converted into a storage house. The small figure of the Infant Jesus was knocked from her knee (never to be recovered), and the statue was eventually hidden in a private home until order was restored. Afterward, the faithful of Dijon rebuilt the shrine to Our Lady of Dijon, and shortly thereafter, as a tribute to their faith, numerous miracles of healing and favor were reported at her intercession. The statue was returned to the Church of Our Lady in 1803.
But the city would be saved again, this time during the Second World War. In 1944, the German army occupied the city, resting there following an attack by American forces. While in Dijon, they commandeered the already meager provisions the townsfolk had available to them, and again, the faithful turned to Our Lady of Dijon. Again, on September 10, the Bishop of Dijon gathered the faithful within the Church of Our Lady, and together they prayed: “Holy Virgin, Compassionate Mother, you who protected our knights of old and who delivered our city from enemy attack, you maintained our ancestors in their times of trouble…Our Lady of Good Hope, pray for us.” Strangely, and unexpectedly, the Nazi army withdrew from Dijon on September 11, the anniversary of the procession of Our Lady of Dijon, and were defeated. French soldiers entered the city without resistance, and Dijon was again free.
We are reminded of the powerful intercession that Our Blessed Mother offers, given that she knows her Son, Our Lord, so dearly. In our own personal times of trouble and distress, we might turn to her to intercede for us, and lift our prayers to Jesus.
O Holy Virgin,
O Mother of mercy,
You have protected our defenders, you have delivered the city from the attacks of the enemy, you have rescued our fathers in the midst of their trials. You always graciously hear the prayers of those who come to you moaning and weeping. You see all that afflicts us and the evils that beset us. Do not abandon us, but look upon us with mercy.
We come to you today with confidence because you are Our Lady of Good Hope.
Perform for us the promise that your good name gives, and we will continue to serve you and always love you. Amen.
Our Lady of Good Hope, pray for us!