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Notre Dame des Ardilliers

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(Latin argilla , French argile , colloquial ardille , clay).

A statue, fountain, and Church of Our Lady at Saumur, France. In ancient times the fountain was often the scene of pagan sacrifices. A monastery founded by Charlemagne at Saumur was destroyed by the Normans and the one surviving monk retired to a cave near the spring of Ardilliers, a statue of Our Lady his sole remaining treasure. A small statue discovered near the spring in 1454 is believed to be identical with the one just mentioned. The miracles wrought in connection with this image caused the erection of a small arch for it above the spring, whose waters were found to have healing virtues. A chapel was built and dedicated (1553) attaining magnificent proportions as successive additions were made, notably by Cardinal Richelieu. The Oratorians were placed in charge (1614). Devotion to Notre Dame des Ardilliers was widespread, and many miracles were wrought. Her clients number such illustrious personages as Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, Marie de' Medici, Henrietta of England, Cardinal Richelieu, and many others. Mme. de Montespan led a life of penance in a modest dwelling near the church. The founders of the Sulpician Company went there for inspiration, and the Ven. Grignonde Montfort to beg divine blessings on the institutes of the Fathers of the Holy Ghost and the Daughters of Wisdom he was about to found. Cities placed themselves under the protection of Notre Dame des Ardilliers, promising annual deputations of pilgrims. During the Revolution the church was despoiled of its treasures, but was not destroyed, and the image was left unharmed. In 1849 the ravages of time necessitated the renovation of the chapel, which had been built by Richelieu, and pilgrimages became more frequent than ever.

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