Statues - Hither & Thither
Notre-Dame de Metz
Our Lady of Metz
Bronze statue of St. Mary with Child on a high column.
During the German retreat at the end of World War I in 1918, Catholics in Metz feared that the city might become a second Verdun, so they asked Reverend Willibrord Benzler, Bishop of Metz from 1901 to 1919, to pledge to erect a statue to the Blessed Virgin so that the city would be spared from armed combat. The prelate accepted. However, he was expelled by the French authorities in July 1919 and died in Germany in 1921. The statue was inaugurated on the Feast of the Assumption in 1924. Place Saint-Jacques was chosen as the location for its centrality and its proximity to the cathedral. The sanctification was celebrated by Reverend Jean-Baptiste Pelt, the new Bishop of Metz, in the presence of Reverend Charles Ruch, Bishop of Strasbourg, and Reverend Alphonse-Gabriel Foucault, Bishop of Saint-Dié, after an address by Reverend du Bois Jagu de la Villerabel, Archbishop of Rouen and Primate of Normandy. The bronze statue by Jacques Martin is 1.90 metres (6.2 ft) tall and stands on an Ionic column of fine stone of Jaumont 8 metres (26 ft) high, by Max Braemer.
Again on 15 August 1940, in spite of the assembly ban imposed by the Nazis then occupying the city and the presence of many armed soldiers, nothing could prevent the citizens of Metz from showing their devotion to Our Lady of Metz and demonstrating their patriotic attachment to France. They gathered silently on the jam-packed square. The statue was surrounded by flowers in the three colors of France and a huge Cross of Lorraine embellished with thistles and a ribbon in yellow and red, the colours of Lorraine, was attached to the column on which the motto of Lorraine could be read: Qui s'y frotte s'y pique (who rubs himself on it pricks himself on it), a reference to the cotton thistle, the symbol of Lorraine. Suddenly in the silent crowd a chant began: Reine de France – Priez pour nous – Notre espérance – Venez et sauvez-nous (Queen of France - Pray for us - Our hope - Come and save us), and was taken up immediately by all the faithful present. The chant was started by Sister Helen Studler, a Daughter of Charity, who had the courage to express her desire to see the tricolor flag of France waving again in Metz. The crowd then returned to the cathedral in silence and many spent the whole night in prayer.
The tradition is honoured each year on August 15, the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. First of all, the Pontifical Mass is celebrated in the morning at the Cathedral of Saint Étienne. Then, after vespers is sung, the bishop conducts a procession from the cathedral to the historic column in the middle of Place Saint-Jacques.
15 Août 1940
15 Août 1945
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