Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel
Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel

Sainte Anne d'Auray
(Sainte Anne, Duchesse Anne, Anne of Brittany, Anne de Bretagne)

Writing this guide has been rather difficult, as we cannot describe this village without relating the life of Anne de Bretagne, together with the legends. So be prepared for some rather disjointed reading.

The Village

This small village, three miles from the town of Auray, in the Diocese of Vannes (Morbihan), is the spiritual capital of Brittany, for almost four centuries Sainte Anne d'Auray has represented the largest place of pilgrimage in Brittany. Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus has been venerated here since the 5th century.

The first chapel was destroyed about the end of the seventh century, but the memory of it was kept alive by tradition, and the village was still called "Keranna", i.e. "Village of Anne".

More than nine centuries later, at the beginning of the seventeenth century (1624-25), St. Anne is said to have appeared several times to a simple and pious villager, Yves Nicolazic, a devout ploughman and commanded him to rebuild the ancient chapel.

On 7th March 1625, in a field near Bocenno, he discovered an old statue of the saint. Because of this find and the frequent apparitions, and before so many witnesses, that Sebastien de Rosmadec, Bishop of Vannes, deemed it his duty to inquire into the matter. After the enquiry acknowledged the authenticity of these apparitions. He authorised the construction of a chapel in honour of Saint Anne. In later years Anne of Austria and Louis XIII enriched this sanctuary with many gifts, among them a relic of St. Anne brought from Jerusalem in the thirteenth century, and in 1641 the Queen obtained from the Pope the erection of a confraternity, which Pope Pius IX raised to the rank of an arch confraternity in 1872. In the meanwhile pilgrimages had begun and became more numerous year by year, nor did the Revolution put a stop to them. The chapel was plundered, the Carmelites who served it driven out, and the miraculous statue of St. Anne was burned at Vannes in 1793; yet the faithful still flocked to the chapel, which was covered with ex-votos. In 1810 the convent of the Carmelites was turned into a petit séminaire. Very soon after this date the chapel became too small to accommodate all the pilgrims; in 1866, the Cardinal Saint Marc laid and blessed the first stone of the present magnificent basilica. Finally, in 1868, Pope Pius IX accorded to the statue of St. Anne, before which many miracles had been sought, the honour of being crowned. St. Anne has continued to be the favourite pilgrimage of Brittany down to the present day.

The Basilica of SAINTE ANNE D'AURAY combines the power of the Gothic dash with gracious Renaissance elegance. At the top of its tower (75 m), there is a bronze statue depicting Saint Anne, a torch in her hand.

On 20th September 1996, SAINTE ANNE D'AURAY welcomed Pope John Paul II. On that day, 150 000 pilgrims greeted him under a radiant sun.

The best way to see this town is with a guide, then you will understand the significance of the monuments of Sainte Anne d'Auray: House of Nicolazic, Cloister, Popular Art gallery, Basilica, the Memorial..., as to the cost just 3,20€ each for the guide, admission charges apply to some of the places visited. Within the sanctuary you will have the opportunity to visit the Treasury and the Museum of Breton costume; both are well worth a visit. You should also visit the House of Nicolazic, to view the Breton furniture and the Wax Museum, where you will see various scenes that explain the origins of the pilgrimage, the life of Nicolazic, and the appearances of Ste Anne and its miracles. The last scene is of the Pope surrounded by five Breton children. This refers to the visit of Jean-Paul II to Ste Anne d' Auray on September 20,1996.

Anne de Bretagne

Annick, Annaic, Annaig — (AHN-eek) Breton form of Anne (Hebrew, Hannah, grace; also spelled Ann, Anne, Anna) is the traditional name of the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Born – Nantes, January 25, 1477
Died - Blois – January 9, 1517

Daughter of Francis II, Duke of Brittany and Margaret of Foix, heiress to his duchy (Brittany).

Anne was her parents' only child who survived childhood, and her marriage was therefore of immense political importance.

Shortly before her father's death falling from a horse on September 9, 1488, a French army under Louis de La Trémoille successfully invaded Brittany and secured the duke's promise that Anne would marry only with the consent of the French crown. Upon becoming duchess, the young Anne's hand and her duchy were eagerly sought. This caused an enormous disruption in the internal politics of Brittany because Anne was then only eleven years old and still single, which meant that several Breton factions were able to struggle for control of the duchy

To prevent France from swallowing up the duchy, a coalition including Archduke Maximilian of Austria (later Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I), King Henry VII of England, and King Ferdinand II of Aragón sent forces to Anne's aid. Nevertheless, Anne's situation was perilous and she appealed (1489) directly to Maximilian for protection. In 1490, Maximilian married Anne by proxy but failed to assist her with armed strength. Besieged at Rennes in 1491, Anne was forced by the French to annul her marriage and was quickly married to Charles VIII. On 6 December at the Château de Langeais, thus she became Queen of France as consort to Charles VIII from 1491 to 1498.

Anne was a highly intelligent woman and spent most of her time on the administration of Brittany, as well as guarding its autonomy.

It was agreed that if Charles died before Anne without issue, she was to marry his successor. Accordingly, in 1499, she married Louis XII, who had previously obtained a divorce from his first wife. Anne wore white, thus setting a new precedent for brides worldwide. The marriage (1514) of Claude, Anne's daughter by Louis XII, to Francis of Angoulême (later Francis I of France) led to the eventual incorporation (1532) by France of Brittany, which had previously remained theoretically separate.

So Anne was the last true Duchess of Brittany.

Among the Bretons it is believed that St. Anne was once Queen of Brittany:

It is said that her husband the King's greatest fear was of a child and upon Anne's pregnancy she was thrown out of the royal household. Walking along the Breton shoreline St. Anne reportedly met an Angel who brought her to the Holy Land aboard a white ship. After the birth of Mary, Anne became distressed and longed for the coast of her beloved Brittany. She prayed that she could see her Breton people again, then a few days later boat appeared again in the harbour; but this time the Angel was dressed in black, for Anne's husband had died during her absence.

Again they made the perilous voyage, landing finally near Douarnenez.

Many people along the coast had noticed the return of Anne and a great gathering of people assembled to welcome their beloved lady. But she waved them away.

"Not in pride but in humility do I return to you," said she. "Give my goods to the poor; for myself, let me spend the rest of my days in a hut on the shore where I may pray in peace."

Every night and every morning she could be seen on the beach in prayer, and when she had grown so old that nobody could guess her age, she was visited by a Radiant Being, who was her grandson, Jesus. He came, accompanied by Peter and John, to beg the blessing of St. Anne before going to Calvary. And gladly she gave it to Him.

This piece is taken from:

Johnson, William Branch. 1927. Folktales of Brittany. London: Methuen & Co.
So as to how these two people come together, we are unsure, but they are always mentioned in the same breath when you listen to the local bards

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