March 9: Our Lady of Savigny, France (1112)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Foundation of Savigny, in the diocese of Avranches, in Normandy, in honor of the Blessed Virgin, about the year 1112, by the blessed Vitalis, hermit, who was its first abbot.”
About the year 1112, in the diocese of Avranches, the Blessed Vitalis (Vital de Mortain) established the foundation of the Abbey of Savigny (Abbaye de Savigny) in honor of the Blessed Mother. This day commemorates the event.
The abbey was founded near the village of Savigny-le-Vieux in the north of France, and Blessed Vitalis became the first abbot. It was initially Benedictine, but soon was given over to Cistercian monks. Within only thirty years it had over thirty daughter houses.
Initially, Vitalis had gone into the forest of Savigny to become a hermit. His fame for sanctity, however, drew disciples to him. These disciples needed shelter from the elements, and soon Vitalis found those crude structures had become a kind of monastery requiring a rule of life. When the Lord of Fougeres granted the land to Vital, the monastery was founded, and the hermit became the reluctant abbot. In 1119 Pope Celestine II took the abbey under his protection.
When Serlo, also known as Serlon, was the third abbot of Savigny. One of the monks was known to have a deep and tender devotion to the Blessed Mother, and while he was saying Mass in honor of Our Lady, he beheld the Virgin’s hand making the sign of the cross over the chalice at the consecration of the wine. At the same time a deliciously sweet odor surrounded the monk. Thereafter, as often as he recalled this, he was refreshed by the sweetness of the scent which had encompassed him at the time.
Mary’s presence was frequently experienced at this shrine, particularly during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and numerous miracles were wrought, prayers answered and graces bestowed for the asking.
During the 16th century the abbey was pillaged and burned by Calvinists, but it was not until the French Revolution that the abbey was reduced to a pile of ruins.
Unlike the abbey, the church Our Lady of Savigny, still stands. According to an inscription on one of the capitals in the choir, the Church was dedicated to our Lady in 1128 and it is believed that there is no church in the district that is older. It was restored in the year 1869
and serves the parish.
Our Lady of Savigny
James Fitzhenry, roman-catholic-saints.com, Marian Calendar
Photo courtesy of David Crochet
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