The idea of erecting a basilica in Lisieux in honor of the one who had just been canonized in 1925, encountered many opposition from the local clergy. The city already had many religious buildings; it was also estimated that the cult of Thérèse, favored by the piety of the hairy during the war of 1914-1918, would only have a short time.
These objections did not stop the then bishop, Monsignor Lemonnier. As early as 1925, he commissioned an architect from Paris to draw up a preliminary draft. But the proposed building aroused many criticisms; Abroad, in particular, the proportions were cramped and it was felt that, for the most beloved Saint in the world, the most beautiful basilica possible was needed.
A new project was then requested from an architect from the north of France, Mr. Louis-Marie Cordonnier, whose reputation was international.
Pope Pius XI, who had canonized Therese on May 17, 1925, considered her to be the Star of his pontificate. He strongly desired the construction of a sanctuary in Lisieux. This desire of the Pope helped to reduce local opposition, and on September 21, 1927, Bishop Lemonnier approved the Cordonnier plan. Bishop Suhard, who was to succeed Bishop Lemonnier a few months later, did not reverse his predecessor's decision, and the first works began in 1929.
Opening of the Basilica
- from November 1 to March 31: 9:30 a.m. to 17:30 p.m.
- from April 1 to August 31: 9:30 a.m. to 19 p.m.
- from September 1 to October 31: 9:30 a.m. to 18 p.m.
Saint John Paul II Center
- November to March: 9:30 am-17:15pm
- April to June then September and October: 10 am-18pm
- July and August: 10 am-18pm
On September 30, 1929, the work was sufficiently advanced for the first stone of the building to be laid. From then on, the basilica was being built at an accelerated pace.
In November 1929, Pius XI informed Mgr Suhard that it was necessary to “do very big, very beautiful, and as quickly as possible! "
- total area: 4 m500
- dome height: 90 m
- length of the basilica: 104 m
On July 11, 1937, at the end of the Eleventh National Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Pacelli, future Pope Pius XII, proceeded to the solemn blessing of the basilica.
The basilica suffered little from the bombardments of June 1944, and the completion works (stained glass and mosaics) continued until July 11, 1954, when the consecration of the sanctuary took place by Mgr Martin, archbishop of Rouen, under the presidency of Cardinal Feltin, Pope's legate
The Upper Basilica
On busy days, 3 pilgrims can take their places on the benches of the basilica and easily follow the ceremonies that take place in the sanctuary: no column can stop the gaze.
On other days, pilgrims like to linger on the mosaics and stained glass that were made in the workshops of Pierre Gaudin (1908-1973), an artist trained in the workshops of sacred art directed by Maurice Denis and Georges Desvallières. At their school, Pierre Gaudin rediscovered the great tradition of the master glassmakers of the Middle Ages: playing with the color of the stained-glass windows to create a light that favors contemplation ... All that is required is that there is a little sunlight for the stained-glass windows of Pierre Gaudin give the basilica a particularly warm atmosphere. Nevertheless, under the influence of Abbé Germain, first rector of the sanctuary, the artist did not give in to his attraction for abstract art: without turning his stained glass windows into glass paintings (like the glassmakers of the XNUMXth century), he designed a figurative project, thus giving all pilgrims the opportunity to discover, through his work, the essence of Thérèse's message.
The Lower Basilica or crypt
La crypt is completely covered with marble and mosaics.
In 1958, the decoration was completed with the installation of five mosaics representing the important stages in Thérèse's life: the baptism of Marie Françoise Thérèse Martin at the Notre-Dame d'Alençon church, on January 4, 1873; the first communion of Thérèse at the Benedictine abbey of Lisieux, on May 8, 1884; the miraculous healing of Thérèse at Les Buissonnets on the feast of Pentecost, May 13, 1883; the profession of Thérèse, September 8, 1890; the death of Thérèse on September 30, 1897.
The crypt houses the reliquary of Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of Saint Thérèse.
The chapel of adoration
If a church is made for participation in the liturgy, it is also made for meditation. The worship chapel whose access is through the crypt, allows you to pray in silence and peace.
- The right wall is that of the crypt, the granite arches of which remind us that we are still in the Basilica;
- The benches are those that were known in the past in the chapel of Carmel;
- The altar is cut on the same model as that of Carmel;
- Above the tabernacle which also recalls that of Carmel: the icon of the Trinity.
Left unfinished, the bell tower houses the 51 bells. The volley ring is made up of 6 bells, the largest of which, the bourdon (9 tons) bears its motto in bronze:"I sound the peoples' call for unity in Love"
Refrains are played every hour and change according to the liturgical periods.
The concert carillon in the bell tower of the basilica is a large Paccard carillon of 51 totally chromatic bells of great sound quality. Paccard is one of the most famous chime makers in the world.
A concert carillon like that of Lisieux, in the tradition of Flemish carillons, has a "manual" keyboard, each key of which is connected to the clapper of a bell; we therefore have one bell per note. The accuracy of the bells and the extent of the keyboard make it possible to play the entire repertoire written for the carillon or arranged from other works.
The elevator is taken at the bottom of the North tower (left) of the Basilica and serves 4 levels: the square, the future Martin Chapel and the Crypt, the upper Basilica and the Dome. It allows access to the panoramic interior exterior of the Basilica and the passageways of the Dome located at a height of 80 meters. Visitors wishing to gain height will be able to take a closer look at the mosaics of the dome which represent Thérèse crowned in Heaven, flowers in hand, symbols of her small actions carried out with love. Now no need to climb the 205 steps to discover the surrounding landscape!
The elevator is currently out of service, we apologize for any inconvenience caused.
We should also point out that when the Bishop refuses Therese entry into Carmel because of her young age, she elevates her desire and decides to bring it to the highest authority of the Church: the Pope. A very fortuitous and symbolic circumstance, it is on her way to Rome that she will discover, in a large Parisian hotel, a prodigious invention: the elevator!
By the brilliant transposition that she makes of it into her spiritual life, this material event will nourish in Thérèse a conviction: filled with a remarkably modern inspiration and a daring tenderness, she will declare, full of hope:
“The elevator that must lift me up to Heaven are your arms, O Jesus! "(Ms C 3 r)
The "Bestiary" of the Basilica of Lisieux
The large stained-glass window in the north transept of the Basilica shows, in its lower part, four large symbols borrowed from the Christian bestiary. Building on a substrate of Latin culture and ancient legends, the Church knew how to use the language of pictorial symbols to her advantage: naturally "speaking" they were easy to memorize and understand by a majority of illiterate people at the time. . Let's look at them starting from the center.
The Deer, symbol of baptism
The deer is a symbol of the thirst of the soul which expects everything from God: "As a thirsty deer seeks living water, so my soul seeks you my God, my soul thirsts for the living God" (Ps 41-42) . The observation by the ancients of the fall and the regrowth of the antlers of the deer, quickly gave the animal the image of rebirth. In addition, legend claims that deer can kill snakes, and in order not to succumb to their bites, they drink clear water for days to purify themselves and be brought back to life.
Very quickly, the deer is identified by Christians with the catechumen, with his aspiration for baptism, the water of which will purify it from the “poison” of sin.
The Pelican, symbol of the Eucharist
This bird is very frequently found in churches, carved at the doors of tabernacles or in front of altars. According to legend, the pelican pierces its chest and its spouting blood feeds its young. What an extraordinary animal! Give his life for his children. “There is no greater proof of love than to lay down your life for those you love. »(Jn 15:13). The pelican, in Christian times, becomes a symbol of the Eucharist, of the Body and Blood of Christ given for the salvation of men.
The Eagle, symbol of contemplation
An eagle, with bright red plumage, is shown gazing at the sun. Ancient tradition claimed that the eagle could gaze into the sun without closing its eyes. Based on this observation, the eagle became the symbol of one who always remains in the presence of the Lord, never looking away, and whose soul rises above earthly things.
The Hen, symbol of the love that unites
Finally, the two stained glass windows at the ends show us a country scene: a little white hen surrounded by her chicks. Far from being more anecdotal than the previous animals, hen and chicks are first and foremost a sign of new life. But above all, the hen is a symbol of motherhood, watching over and protecting her young. She is able to brood until she forgot to eat and drink.
She shows constant care for her chicks and is ready to defend them to the death, constantly giggling to keep them from getting lost and to encourage them. Jesus himself spoke of the hen and compared himself to her when addressing Jerusalem:
“How many times have I wanted to gather your children like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Mt 23:37)
In the background of the stained glass windows showing the hen is a monument: we can easily recognize the Chapel of the Carmel of Lisieux. So there would be a link between this stained glass window of the hen and the life of Thérèse in Carmel? Sunday June 7, 1897. Thérèse has been ill for over a year, she has difficulty walking. She is plunged into the test of faith, not perceiving anything of the presence of God:
"The sky is so dark that I do not see any clearing" (CJ 27.5.6). However, "sometimes, it is true, a tiny ray of sunlight illuminates my darkness, so the ordeal ceases for a moment" (Ms C, 7v °)
On this Sunday in June, she takes a few steps with Sr Agnès de Jesus, her sister Pauline, in the garden of the monastery. Let Pauline tell the story: Going down the steps, she saw, on the right, under the medlar tree, the little white hen who had all her chicks under her wings. […] She paused thoughtfully to consider them. After a while, I waved to him that it was time to go home. Her eyes were full of tears.
I said to him: “You are crying! "Then she put her hand in front of her eyes, crying more and answered me:" I cannot tell you why at this moment; I am too moved… ”In the evening, in her cell, she said to me with a heavenly expression:“ I cried, thinking that the good Lord took this comparison to make us believe in his tenderness. All my life, that's what he has done for me! He completely hid me under his wings!… ”(CJ 7.6.1).
Le Chemin de Croix
Live on love, …..
With Jesus is to climb Calvary,
It is to regard the Cross as a treasure!…Saint Therese (PN 17)
Let us think of the number of times the Lord has lifted us up and tell Him again of our trust in His merciful love.
Come and join us as a family, in teams, in small catechism groups to experience the Way of the Cross at the Basilica of Sainte Thérèse.
All year round, possibility of programming the Way of the Cross (for even small groups) at the bedside of the Basilica or at the Crypt depending on the weather.