A pandemic story: The miracle of Ittre

This little post is dedicated to Carlos Eire, who loves miracles and has a professional interest in them, but even he may not have heard of this one. I’m pretty sure most people haven’t.

Ittre is a small town in central Belgium, in the French-speaking region called Wallonia. The local church, founded in the seventh century, is the center for the veneration of Our Lady of Ittre, which began in 1336. At that time, the area was ravaged by the Black Death, the bubonic plague. In desperation, the local people got permission from the bishop to take a thirteenth-century oak statue of the Virgin from a nearby Augustinian monastery and carry it in procession from village to village. When it arrived in Ittre, the plague stopped.

The grateful villagers, not too surprisingly, then resolutely refused to give the statue back to the monks, and kept it in their village church. After protracted litigation in ecclesiastical courts, the bishop agreed to let them keep it and gave a new statue to the monastery. An annual procession was established in 1384 in commemoration of the miracle, which has been held every year since then on August 15. The Virgin of Ittre is formally known as Mother of Grace and Consolation.

I hope the villagers can still have their procession again this year.

1 thought on “A pandemic story: The miracle of Ittre”

  1. Beautiful story. I hadn’t heard of it. Thanks for the post! Plague-stricken towns had a difficult choice to make: if they held a public procession, the plague could grow worse through close contact; but the best way to fight a plague back then was with processions! Now, the Catholic Church cancels mass and all rituals.

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