Cathedral of Saintes, France site of angelic ringing of the Cathedral bells on the Octave of the Presentation of the Child Jesus and the Purification of Mary, February 9.
“Saintes” is the English translation for the French word meaning female saints. There is a great deal of history to the Poitou-Charentes region of western France where the town of Saintes is located.
The town of Saintes was originally a thriving settlement in ancient Gaul located along the Charente River. The town became known as Mediolanum Santonum once conquered by the Romans under Julius Caesar, and the remains of the triumphal arch of Germanicus and a large amphitheatre can still be seen there today.
The town takes its name, Saintes, due to a fascinating legend that many still piously believe. According to this tradition, Mary Salome and Mary Jacob, accompanied by other disciples of Jesus Christ, were forced to flee the Holy Land about the year 45 AD. They crossed the Mediterranean Sea making land near the place which became known as Saintes Maries de la Mer. This Cathedral has a history dating back to the 8th century and honors the rich history of the saints and martyrs of this region of France. The Cathedral was never completed and this accounts for the impoverished wood interior and the stunted tower which was originally supposed to have a never completed spire.
It is recorded, though, that one year long ago, on the octave day of the Purification, the bells in the Cathedral of Saintes, France, rang out most sweetly of themselves. The sacristans, having run to the church, saw what appeared to be several unknown men holding lighted tapers and melodiously chanting hymns in honor of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of the Bells, who was venerated in a chapel of this church. Approaching softly, they – the men who had run to the church – begged the last of these men carrying lighted candles, to give them one in proof of the miracle they had witnessed. The light-bearers graciously complied.
This taper, or candle, in remembrance of Our Lady of the Bells, is said to be preserved in that church up to this day.