Le Mans, France, is a must-visit town. Not only is there rich history for Catholics – especially those from the state of Indiana or who are associated with the Congregation of Holy Cross or the Sisters of Providence – but for anyone interested in history, faith, culture, art, or who just enjoys wandering old, narrow lanes. I had never really heard much about Le Mans before preparing for this pilgrimage, but now I can’t wait to come back – perhaps in warmer weather! – to spend more time in this beautiful city. Here are a few highlights from today …
We began the day by celebrating Mass at the tomb of Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. From there, we visited the local market to get some fresh croissants and pastries to accompany our coffee and tea in a local cafe. We then visited the Le Mans’ Cathedral of St. Julien, which houses the oldest stained glass window in Europe in its original location (see below) and – among other things – the tomb of Bishop Jean-Baptiste Bouvier who was a spiritual father to both Blessed Moreau and St. Theodora Guerin.
Following our visit to the Cathedral, we wandered through the quaint, picturesque narrow lanes of Old Town Le Mans, past 1000 year old buildings, including the house where King Henry II of England was born. Some might see a vision of Hogsmeade from Harry Potter in the look of this Old Town. Or just what we imagine medieval French towns to look like. It’s really all there. Two other churches were on our path – the Visitation Church where Blessed Moreau was ordained a priest and the Church of Notre Dame de la Couture, an 11th-century Romanesque church built over the tomb of St. Bertrand and featuring the oldest statue of Jesus in France. So. Much. History. And art. And faith. And culture. And life.
After bidding farewell to our host, Fr. John, CSC, we made the journey to our next stop – Rennes – where we will be for the next few days. After settling into our residence on the outskirts of Rennes, we journeyed out for a wonderful French dinner – appetizers included foie gras, an egg parfait, and fresh oysters. Tomorrow, our plan is to drive up to the coast of Brittany to visit the birthplace of St. Theodora Guerin in Etables-sur-Mer. Please continue to pray for us on our pilgrim journey, and know that we are praying for you!