Marian apparitions of the rue du Bac, Paris

The mysterious origins of the Miraculous Medal of the Chapel at 140 rue du Bac in Paris
By Paris la douce - 4 March 2021
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Apparitions and prophecies of Saint Mary to Catherine Labouré

Early life of Saint Catherine Labouré

Saint Catherine Labourée was born in Fain-les-Moutiers in Burgundy, the eighth child of a couple of modest French peasants. When her mother died, she was only nine years old and developed a special attachment to the Virgin Mary, the beginnings of a vocation. A farm girl, Catherine remained without any education until late. Her older sister Marie-Louise joined the Daughters of Charity.

According to Yves Chiron, in his work "Investigation of the Apparitions of the Virgin", at the age of eighteen, Catherine was struck by a disturbing dream. She attends mass celebrated by an elderly priest. He calls out to her to say "My daughter, it is good to take care of the sick. You are running away from me now, but one day you will be happy to come to me. God has his plans for you. Do not forget it !".

In 1826, a more fortunate cousin decided to take her under her wing so that she could learn to read and write. Catherine joined a boarding school in Châtillon-sur-Saône, near the convent of the Sisters of Charity. She recognizes in a portrait of Saint Vincent de Paul, founder of the order, the priest who challenged her in her dream. Her vocation became clearer, but her father, who wanted her to marry, tried in vain to turn her away from that path. Sent to Paris, Catherine worked for a time in a workers' canteen run by her uncle. She rubs shoulders with the misery of the common people.

In 1830, after three months of discernment at the house of the Sisters of Charity of Châtillon-sur-Seine, she began her seminar on April 21 at the rue du Bac convent in Paris. During her novitiate, Catherine received the visit of the Virgin at least three times. She only entrusts the message of her apparitions to her confessor Father Aladel and to the Mother Superior of the Daughters of Charity. They will keep the identity of the seer a secret.

Prophecies of the Mother of Christ to Catherine

The details of the first apparition dated July 18, 1830 are only revealed by the confessor's account. Unlike the next one, neither canonical investigation nor interrogation of the clairvoyant will take place. The day before the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, Catherine is awakened in the middle of the night by a small child who urges her to join the chapel. The resplendent Virgin appears to her. Sitting in an armchair at the top of the altar steps, Catherine at her knees, She talks about a difficult mission ahead. During this interview, Saint Mary dispenses various prophecies. The book "A sign in the sky: The apparitions of the Virgin" by Joachim Bouflet and Philippe Boutry transcribe them in these terms: "Times will be bad. Misfortunes will come to fall on France. The throne will be overthrown, the whole world will be overthrown by misfortunes of all kinds, but come to the foot of this altar, there graces will be extended especially to those who ask for them”.

⛪ The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

The Virgin Marie announces the regrouping of two religious congregations. The Sisters of Charity, founded by Elizabeth Seton and the Sisters of Charity of Austria, founded by Léopoldine de Brandis, joined the Daughters of Charity in 1850. She prophesied the death of the Archbishop of Paris Monsignor Darboy during riots, a disastrous end achieved in 1871 during the Paris Commune, when he was shot by the insurgents.

Finally, always in “A sign in the sky: The apparitions of the Virgin”, the Mother of Christ predicts that “The community will enjoy great peace, it will become great. But great misfortunes will happen, the danger will be great, yet fear not, say not to fear. God's protection is always there in a very special way and Saint Vincent will protect you, but I myself will be with you, I always have my eye on you, I will grant you many graces ... The time will come, the danger will be great, people will think that all is lost, there, I will be with you, have confidence".

Ex-voto plaques at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Ex-voto plaques in the access aisle to the chapel at 140 rue du Bac © Paris la douce Creative Commons License

The revelation of the motif of the Miraculous Medal

On November 27, 1830, in the chapel, during the evening prayer in the company of the community of the Daughters of Charity, Catherine was visited again. The Virgin appears to her to transmit to her the motif of the miraculous medal bearing conversion, healing, and hope. The nuns gathered around her noticed nothing. The book "Investigation of the Apparitions of the Virgin" by Yves Chiron thus relates Catherine's words. "I saw the Blessed Virgin at the height of the painting of Saint Joseph, [...] standing, all dressed in white, an average height, her face so beautiful that it would be impossible for me to say her beauty. She wore a dawn white silk dress”. Her head crowned with twelve stars, face turned towards Heaven, the Virgin standing on a globe, tramples on a serpent. She holds in her hands, shining rays of light, a golden earth globe surmounted by a cross. At Her Fingers, rings adorned with stones radiate towards the globe at his feet. The words “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you” surround it. The novice has visions whose meaning is illuminated by the Mother of Christ herself. "This ball that you see represents the whole world, particularly France ... and each person in particular ..." [...] "the rays are the symbol of the graces that I pour out on people who ask me". On the reverse of the medal, surrounded by twelve stars, are a large Marian M surmounted by the Cross, as well as two hearts, that of Jesus, crowned with thorns, that of Mary, pierced with a sword. To the faithful who ask for Her protection, the Virgin grants great graces because "all those who will wear it and who will pray with piety the short prayer (inscribed on the medal) will enjoy a very special protection from the Mother of God".

Recto-verso of the Miraculous Medal
Motives of the miraculous medal © Paris la douce Creative Commons License

The Virgin asks Catherine to gather a sisterhood of children of Mary. In 1837, the Daughters of Charity and the Vincentians founded the Children of Mary Immaculate.

The "Dictionary of the Apparitions of the Virgin Mary" by René Laurentin and Patrick Sbalchiero reports the third apparition in December 1830. The date is not specified. The Virgin of the rays announces to Catherine that she will no longer see her, but that she "will still hear her in her prayers".

On January 30, 1831, Catherine Labouré took the habit and pronounced her vows. She joined the Enghien hospice in the village of Reuilly, annexed to Paris in 1860. Her entire life was marked by premonitions and visions. Before passing away on December 31, 1876, she declared: “I was only an instrument. It was not for me that the Blessed Virgin appeared. If she chose me, knowing nothing, it was so that no one could doubt her".

Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal © Paris la douce Creative Commons License

Plan your visit to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse

Address: 140 rue du Bac - Paris 7
Phone: +33 (0)1 49 54 78 88
Fax: +33 (0)1 49 54 78 89
Subway (Métro): Sèvres-Babylone (lines 10 and 12)
Bus: 39, 63, 70, 84, 87, 94
Practical information and timetables: website

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