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Pontmain, a town not far from the border of Britanny and Normandy, was, in the year 1871, the scene of one of the more important of the modern apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Early on the evening of January 17, members of the Barbadette family were at work in their barn when Eugene (age 12) went to the door and looked at the starry sky. He noticed something unusual, a blank patch of sky over the house opposite theirs. Then within the patch, he saw stars appear in the shape of a triangle. Within the stars appeared a beautiful young woman. An expression of surprise brought his 10-years-old brother Joseph, who saw the Lady immediately, and his father, who saw nothing at all. The two boys began to describe what they were viewing. The Lady wore a blue dress decorated with stars and blue shoes with a gold buckle. She had a black veil on her head and a gold crown. The boys' mother arrived on the scene and saw nothing.

Their mother sent for a nun from the local convent school and she arrived with three children. Two of the three immediately saw the Lady. Soon other villagers arrived. Everyone could see the triangle of stars but not the Lady, seen only by the four children. The woman unrolled a scroll upon which a message calling for prayer was printed. She also showed the children various symbolsa red cross, some candles, and two luminescent crosses. She then assumed the same position she had in the apparition to Catherine Labouré in Paris in 1830, with her arms to her side and hand extended in a blessing.

The local priest who had joined the group witnessing the apparition sent a report to his bishop, who appointed an investigating commission. Its report was positive; the bishop also ruled favorably. The Barbadette barn became a pilgrimage site. The two Barbadette children entered the priesthood and lived to see the completion and consecration of a large church near their family's house that was dedicated in 1900. Then in 1901 they participated in a second study of Pontmain ordered by Pope Leo XIII that also ruled favorably. Benedict's successor, Pius XI, gave permission for a special mass and liturgy for "Our Lady of Pontmain."

The Pontmain apparition took on special significance for many French Catholics as it occurred at the point that the Germans made their deepest penetration of the country. On January 17, 1871, the army stood on the outskirts of Lavel (just 30 miles from Pontmain) and were prepared to take it the next day. Instead, they received orders to withdraw. Many came to believe that the Virgin appeared at Pontmain to stop the German advance.


Sharkey, Don. The Woman Shall Conquer. Kenosha, Wis.: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1976.

Sullivan, T. S. Our Lady of Hope: The Story of the Apparition at Pontmain. St. Meinrad, Ind.: Grail, 1954.

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