"The Virgin of the Poor"
Our Lady of Banneux

"Believe in me, and I will believe in you!"


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BANNEUX IS AN unremarkable village on the edge of the Ardennes Mountains. In 1933 the Beco family were living there in a small house built by the father, Julien, an unemployed wire maker. There were seven children and the family was poor, living mainly on produce from their little vegetable garden. They were nominally Catholic and not conspicuously devout.

Mariette was the oldest of the children, aged eleven. On the evening of January 15 she was looking after two of her brothers who were ill, and at the same time watching out for their father to return. She was nervous and did not like the long dark winter evenings.

As she peered through the curtains she suddenly became aware of a bright light hovering in the middle distance. After a few minutes the light formed itself into a human figure-----"a beautiful lady," as Mariette later reported. The woman was dressed in white and blue and was holding a rosary. Mariette looked again and then called to her mother, Louise, "A beautiful lady in our garden is smiling at me!" Her mother looked out but saw only a vague form. "Perhaps it's the Virgin Mary!" she exclaimed, not unkindly.


At school the next day Mariette told her story to her best friend, Josephine Leonard, who only laughed. This upset Mariette, so Josephine wondered whether there might be something in it after all. After school the two girls went to see the parish priest, Father Louis Jamin.

A great change now came over Mariette, who had previously been rather unruly, much given to playing truant and neglecting her lessons. She began to prepare her schoolwork thoroughly, and each morning went early to church to pray.

On January 18, at seven in the evening, Mariette went out into the garden. Her father followed her. The girl knelt down and began to pray her rosary. Her father watched in amazement as she raised her arms as if greeting someone. Again, as she later swore on oath, Mariette saw the figure she had first seen from the upstairs window: "She seemed to be standing on a platform of smoke." Her father, who could see nothing, rode off on his bicycle and returned with his neighbor Michel Charleseche and Michel's son, who was about the same age as Mariette.

When the three returned, Mariette was walking out of the garden and into the road. "She is calling me," she said.


Click HERE for the Litany of Banneaux.

They watched as twice she fell to her knees on the frosty ground and prayed earnestly. When Mariette later described what had been happening that night, she said, "The Lady called for me to follow her to the spring. She asked me to put my hand in the water and when I did so she said, 'This spring is to be dedicated to me.' "

Mariette then returned home, went to bed and fell asleep. Father Jamin was sent for, and asked Julien Beco what the strange affair was all about. Julien, a lapsed Catholic, was in a highly emotional state and told the priest that he was certain his daughter had received visions of the Blessed Virgin. He made an appointment at the confessional for the following day and expressed his desire to return to the Church.

The next day, the apparition came again to Mariette at seven in the evening. Others gathered in the garden as she asked of the vision, "Who are you, madame?"

The Lady replied, "I am the Virgin of the Poor." Again she led Mariette to the icy spring and told her that in the future it would relieve the sick of all nations. The following day the Virgin appeared again and said that she desired a little chapel to be built in her honor at Banneux. When the vision had departed, Mariette fainted. The Virgin did not return for several weeks, and Mariette was teased and taunted for her credulity.

Then on February 11 Our Lady appeared again to Mariette and guided her to the spring. The Virgin said, "I come to relieve suffering." Later Mariette was interviewed by Father Jamin and said, "It would be pleasing to the Lady for me to make my First Communion."

On the 15th, accompanied by her mother, Mariette went out again into the garden with her rosary. At once the Virgin appeared and Mariette fell to her knees. She said, "Holy Mother, Father Jamin asked me to ask you to give us a sign." The Virgin replied cryptically, "Believe in me, and I will believe in you!" And then she vanished from sight again, having enjoined Mariette to "Pray very much."

On February 20 the Our Lady appeared again, and said gravely to Mariette, "My dear child, pray very much . . ."

On March 2, in the pouring rain, Mariette again went out into the garden at around seven in the evening. Those who had observed her throughout the apparitions remarked how, as the child's conversations with the Virgin proceeded, her speech became more rapid and her voice was raised in pitch. On this occasion the young visionary knew that this was her last vision, because the Virgin said, "Adieu." Before this she told Mariette, "I am the Mother of God."

The story of the apparitions at Beauraing is related below. Some people in Banneux suggested that Mariette had invented her account of her visions after hearing of those events, which took place only about fifty miles/80 km away.


In January 1935 a commission was appointed, on the authority of Cardinal Van Roey, to study reports of visions in Banneux, Beauraing and elsewhere in Belgium, all of which had occurred within a very few years. Mariette was interrogated so often that she said, "Had I known all that I was compelled to endure, I wouldn't have said a word about my visions. I might instead have built, all by myself, a small chapel in our garden."

But the people of Banneux themselves built the chapel to the Virgin, and it was dedicated on the Feast of the Assumption in 1933. Even before the shrine was completed, pilgrims to Banneux made claims of supernatural cures. For instance, a Spaniard named Benito Pelegri Garcia had a very badly injured right. arm. His wife heard the stories about Banneux and insisted that they walk there from Barcelona. Benito thrust his arm into the spring and felt it to be boiling hot. He exclaimed, "I have come all the way from Spain. If you are indeed the Virgin of the Poor, then prove it to me!" He withdrew the drain-tube from his arm and the wound healed immediately in front of many witnesses.

Bishop Kerkhof wrote an account of Banneux in which he noted twenty miraculous cures occurring between 1933 and 1938. During the Second World War, Cardinal Van Roey issued an encyclical in which he declared that the events surrounding the apparitions were worthy of serious study. On August 22, 1949, the Bishop of Liege affirmed in a pastoral letter that the eight appearances made by Our Lady to Mariette were to be believed.


Banneux is now one of the most visited shrines of Our Lady in northern Europe. The little chapel requested by her has been replicated more than a hundred times throughout the world, and though a pilgrim church was subsequently built, the original chapel remains.

The modern shrine is vast and imposing but never cold or impersonal. Two stone circles indicate the places where Mariette stopped and knelt before Our Lady. The connection between Lourdes and Banneux was established in 1958, when a piece of the rock from Massabielle was mounted into the spring.

In St. Joseph's Chapel behind the Beco house is a statue of St. Joseph with the Christ Child. The square where the pilgrims gather, the Esplanade, whose main altar was consecrated in 1959, has the form of an aqueduct, symbolizing water as a source of life. It is also called the Altar of the Magnificat.

On the left of the Esplanade is the Chapel of the Message. In one corner is a carved candlestick, symbol of the light of peace which comes to pilgrims through Mary's intercession. There is a majestic statue of Our Lord, and on its pedestal the Beatitudes are carved in Latin.

The sheer number of visitors made it necessary to build the Pilgrim's Church, completed in 1985 shortly before the visit of Pope John Paul II. Set into the wall by the entrance is a stone from St. Peter's in Rome. Other centers for prayer and worship are the Chapel of the Sick and St. Michael's Chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is in exposition every day.

But the piece de resistance and spiritual center of the shrine remains the Chapel of the Apparitions, marking the spot where Our Lady appeared eight times. A picture by Leon Jamin shows the Virgin's illuminated figure as seen by Mariette and in the middle of the chapel a white marble plaque recalls the place where she first saw Our Lady. Here a text declares: "She wanted to open her Motherly Heart." The Blessed Sacrament is always reserved in the Tabernacle.

The opening day for pilgrimages is May 1. The Assumption, August 15, is the occasion for an international pilgrimage. There has been a recitation of the Rosary every evening since 1933 without fail.


"The Virgin with the Golden Heart"
Our Lady of Beauraing

"Do you love my Son? Do you love me? Then sacrifice yourself for me."


IN 1932 ALBERT VOISIN was a lively boy of eleven with a fifteen-year-old sister, Fernande. One November evening they called for their friends Andree and Gilberte Degeimbre and made their way to the convent school in their small home town of Beauraing to collect another friend, Gilberte Voisin, at the end of the evening study.

As they waited at the school door Albert suddenly cried out, "Look, the Virgin Mary is walking over the railway bridge!" He was a notorious prankster, so the girls took no notice. But Albert assured them he was not joking. When at last they turned to look, they saw a woman in white strolling through the air above the bridge and the convent garden. The children were afraid and hammered at the door.

Sister Valeria came to the door with Gilberte Voisin. Gilberte looked towards the bridge and she too saw the apparition, but the nun saw nothing and told the children to go home. When she reported the alleged vision to Mother Theophile, the Superior, she was scolded for her credulity. The frightened children ran home to their respective parents, who were deeply skeptical and sent them to bed in disgrace for lying.


The following day the children were at the convent school as usual to collect Gilberte Voisin when the apparition reappeared. Strangely, the youngsters were not frightened this time. Again they tried to convince Madame Germaine Degeimbre, but without success. She advised Hector Voisin that in future he should collect his daughter from school himself if the two families were not to be held up to ridicule all over the town.

The next evening, at about six o'clock, the Degeimbre children wanted to go to the convent again in the hope that the Virgin would appear. Their mother refused at first, but then she had second thoughts: what if someone was playing a practical joke on the children? She decided to accompany them and get to the bottom of the mystery. Other neighbors joined the group and they all set off for the convent. The children ran ahead and the adults heard their cries of delight: "She is here! She is here again!" 

 This time the vision appeared on the walkway between the garden and the convent door. Later the children reported that the Virgin was standing three feet above the ground. She wore a white dress and her hands were clasped in a gesture of prayer. Then she opened her arms to welcome them before vanishing. The adults saw nothing.

Later that night, Germaine decided to conduct further investigations on her own. Convinced that the children were not telling lies, she felt someone must be deceiving them with reflections or mirrors. The children begged to be allowed to go with her, and, when they were about to leave the garden, they saw the Lady in the hawthorn. And when they reached the convent they fell to their knees and began reciting the Ave Maria. Germaine walked towards the spot on which their eyes were fixed, but Andree Degeimbre warned her mother not to go further for fear of offending the Virgin. After a few moments the apparition vanished, and the distraught children cried. Germaine and the other adults then made a thorough search of the garden for the supposed trickster, but found no one.

In school the next day, Mother Theophile addressed all the children severely and said there was to be no talk of "visions". Meanwhile, Madame Degeimbre and Madame Voisin had been to see the parish priest, Father Leon Lambert. The priest said that during Mass on December 8 he would pray for clarification: were the children being duped or was the Blessed Virgin truly visiting them?


The following evening Mother Theophile padlocked the garden gate and let dogs loose in the yard as a further disincentive to the curious. Undeterred, the children went along as usual, followed by a small group of interested adults. Again the Virgin appeared and the young visionaries fell to their knees. The girls were silent but Albert asked them, "Is this the Blessed Virgin?" The Virgin nodded affirmatively, so he added, "What is it you want with us?" Then the girls spoke in chorus, as if in answer to a voice which they alone had heard: "Yes, we will always be good." After this the vision disappeared.

On Sunday, December 4 the children went again to the convent school at about 6:30 in the evening. This time they took with them a little boy who had polio and a blind uncle of the Degeimbre girls. Again they asked the vision to declare unambiguously whether she was the Blessed Virgin or not. Later they reported that she had nodded her head. They then asked her to heal the two sick people they had brought with them. There was no apparent response.

They returned again on the 5th, and this time the accompanying group had grown into a crowd. Albert asked the Virgin for some sign to convince the adults that the vision was authentic. On the following day, December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, the Virgin appeared holding a rosary and the children at once began to recite it. The Virgin asked them to return on the Thursday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Word of the apparitions had spread throughout Belgium, and on Thursday twelve thousand people turned up. This time the children went into an ecstatic trance during which they were subjected to investigation by doctors who were interested in abnormal psychological states. One Dr. Lurquin lit a match and held it under Gilberte Voisin's hand. She uttered no cry of pain, and later examination revealed no burn mark. The doctor also nipped and pinched the children, but drew no response.

In the following days not every child saw or heard the same phenomena, and so discrepancies and confusion arose. As a result Mother Theophile suspected that the Devil was involved, so on Christmas Eve she fastened a medallion of St. Benedict to the tree in the garden where the Lady had appeared. The apparitions briefly ceased.


They resumed again on December 27, when the Virgin told the children, "My last appearance will happen quite soon now." On the 29th nine thousand pilgrims arrived in the hope of receiving a miraculous sign. That evening, Fernande Voisin claimed to have seen the Virgin reveal a golden heart radiating heavenly light. She alone saw this phenomenon, which made the subsequent interrogations even more ill-tempered. The youngsters were constantly interviewed and cross-examined by doctors and officials until they were tired out. On December 30, Fernande and Gilberte Voisin and Andree Degeimbre claimed they had seen the luminous golden heart; but only Fernande said she had heard the Lady say, "Pray very much."

On January 3, 1933, thirty-five thousand pilgrims made the journey to Beauraing. The children at once went into an ecstatic trance and began to pray the Ave Maria in unnaturally high-pitched tones. Each child received a private message from the Virgin; they were all deeply touched and wept openly-----all except Fernande, to whom the Lady had not appeared that evening. She was heartbroken.

Fernande knelt by the gate and began praying the rosary desperately. At that moment there was a brilliant flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. It was apparent from the look on Fernande's face that she could see the Virgin once again. After this the visions ended.


Enthusiasm for the visionaries' story competed with a mood of skepticism, so that controversy raged throughout Belgium. In May 1933 the Bishop of Namur set up a committee to evaluate the visions.
Then came the first reports of cures and blessings. A young girl, Pauline Dereppe, was healed of a severe bone disease after praying at Beauraing. A middle-aged woman, Madame Van Laer, was cured of her tuberculosis. As the news spread, the number of pilgrims increased phenomenally: there were two and a half million in 1933 alone.

All the children survived into adulthood, married and raised children. Albert became a missionary schoolmaster in the Belgian Congo. It was not until 1949 that the findings of the committee of inquiry into the apparitions at Beauraing were made public. The Bishop declared, "The Commission has thoroughly studied the events and we are convinced of the supernatural character of the visions."


At the north-west end of the church is the Garden of the Hawthorn, marking the place where Our Lady first appeared to the children. This is also the site of the Railway Bridge. A lovely statue of the Virgin in Carrara marble stands to greet you. Two miraculous cures were officially recorded here: those of Maria Van Laer and Madeleine Acar. Here too are the very paving stones where the visionaries fell to their knees. Under the podium is the Crypt of St. John, which contains a beautiful statue of Our Lady as well as stations of the Cross by Max Van Der Linden.

Don't leave without visiting the Votive Chapel and the commemorative stone to the pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II on 18 May 1985. Proceed through the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, where Mass is celebrated daily, to the Monumental Arch under which is the Altar to the Queen of Heaven.

At the head of the nave is the Upper Church which is reached by a stairway [there is a ramp for wheelchairs]. On the right is a silhouette entitled The Mother of God, traced by Maurice Rocher and realized in ceramics by Alice van der Gaast. Under the Upper Church you find the Rosary Church with the ceramics of the Mysteries of the Rosary by Max Van Der Linden and also the metal stations of the Cross by the Swiss artist Willi Buck.

Between the shrine steps and the Town Hall is the Marian Museum, which displays souvenirs of the apparitions including clothing Worn by the visionaries themselves. Each year tens of thousands visit the chapel built near the little convent school. Beauraing has become one of the best-loved of all the shrines of Our Lady.

On 21/22 of August each year an international pilgrimage takes place and the anniversary of the apparition is celebrated on November 29.

The Beauraing cemetery contains the tombs of Andree Degeimbre and Fernande Voisin.

The above image of the statue is the property of Catholic Tradition. It may not be used without permission.


Our Lady of Hope

My Son will let himself be moved with pity . . .

Click on the image to view the facade of the basilica.  View another statue of Our Lady of Hope, HERE.

IN 1870 FRANCE was at a low ebb. The country was at war with Prussia and the Church was in decline. The news, particularly from Paris, was ominous. Prussian troops had surrounded the capital and the sound of shells and cannon-fire was heard every day. Thousands of young Frenchmen had been conscripted into the army, including forty from the little village of Pontmain. The Barbedette children-----Eugene, aged twelve, and Joseph, ten-----were altar boys at the parish church and got up early every morning to serve at Mass. Their elder brother, Auguste, was away fighting.

On the morning of January 17, 1871 old Abbe Guerin prayed for penitence and courage, and for the special help of the Blessed Virgin in the face of an imminent Prussian attack.

Later that day, just after five in the afternoon, Eugene and Joseph were helping their father with his cows. The three were startled by the sudden appearance of Jeanette Detais, a woman who fulfilled the role of parish messenger but also dressed the dead in their shrouds for burial. Happily, she brought news that Auguste was still alive.


Much cheered, Eugene went and frolicked in the snow for a while. The sky was like a velvet cloth, covered with stars like pearls. But the boy noticed one completely black area in the sky which he later described as 'like a hole in the heaven'. As he stared at the blackness it filled with a dazzlingly beautiful young woman about seventeen years old, wearing a blue dress and a golden crown.

Joseph looked up, saw the vision too and cried out, 'There is a charming lady!' The boys' father and Jeanette Detais came running to see what the commotion was all about, but saw nothing. Monsieur Barbedette, a kindly man, had no desire to disbelieve his sons; he was mystified and called his wife from the house. Madame Barbedette, less tolerant than her husband, gave them a slap and told them to stop telling lies. But the tearful boys insisted. So she sent for Sister Vitaline, a teacher at the local convent school.

The Sister was prepared to believe the boys' story even though she did not see the apparition herself. 'Sometimes the Blessed Virgin appears only to children,' she said. 'Remember Lourdes. I'll go and fetch some of my girls from the school.' She returned in a few minutes, bringing with her
eleven-year-old Francoise Richer and Jeanne-Marie Lebosse, nine. The girls were told nothing but saw the vision at once and corroborated what the boys had said.

A small crowd gathered around the Barbedettes' barn. The adults could see nothing remarkable, but the children joined the visionaries. A babe-in-arms lifted her hands towards the Glorious Mother, as if she wanted to be taken to her breast.

Jeannette Detais went to fetch Abbe Guerin, who stared into the starry night but confessed he could see nothing. The children began to report changes in the apparition: a blue circle around her, a triangle of stars like a medallion, and then a red Cross. Abbe Guerin took out his rosary and instructed the people to pray with him. Young Joseph called out, 'The Lady can hear our prayers. She's smiling. There is a banner by her feet!' Slowly and hesitantly, the four children read aloud the words which were being written on the banner: 'Say your prayers, my children. God will soon hear you. And my Son will let Himself be moved With pity.'


The villagers fell to their knees and began to sing the Passiontide hymn 'My Sweet Jesu'. At this the Blessed Virgin appeared sad, and the children reported that she now held a larger red Cross with the figure of the crucified Savior upon it. Four candles appeared around the figure, and the people recalled the memorial candles that were lit every Sunday in church for the men of the village who were away at war: After three hours, during which the form of the vision went through many colorful changes, each one full of biblical symbolism, a veil seemed to cover the Virgin and she vanished.

The following day, news reached Pontmain that the Prussian general had canceled his attack on their region and withdrawn his troops. Reports declared that some of the Prussian soldiers had been seized with fear because they too had seen the vision. One said, 'A Virgin is shielding the town. We can go no further.' Within less than a fortnight the Prussians withdrew completely, an armistice was signed and the war was over. Nevertheless it had been a defeat for France. The Emperor Napoleon III was a prisoner and great tracts of eastern France were surrendered to the invaders.


Eugene later entered the priesthood and his brother Joseph joined the Order of the Immaculate Mary. In 1872 the diocesan bishop proclaimed that 'The vision of the Blessed Virgin bears all the marks of a supernatural and Divine event', and authorized the building of a shrine. The Barbedettes' barn was converted into a small church, while plans were put in hand for the building of a larger one. When the latter was completed it was declared a basilica and dedicated to Our Lady of Hope. Thirty thousand pilgrims and visitors are drawn to Pontmain every year by the story of the lady who appeared in 'the hole in heaven'.

The basilica is a vast, imposing building with tall towers at the west end. It dominates the little town and can be seen from a great distance around. In front of Our Lady of Hope is a statue of the apparition and to the rear, on the edge of the Park of Calvary, is a museum which tells the story of the events of January 17, 1871.

A most attractive sight is the Chapel of the Lights. The mortal remains of the visionaries and the Abbe Guerin are interred in the cemetery nearby.

In 1996 Our Lady of Hope shrine celebrated the 125th anniversary of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thousands of pilgrims visit each year to pray to the Queen of Peace and Unity.