Saint Jane de Chantal
Jane Frances Fremyhot de Chantal was born in 1572 in Dijon, France, the second child of a noble family. Her mother died when she was eighteen months old and she was reared by her father who gave her an extraordinary education for a young girl of her time. She was intelligent, strong-willed and full of faith in God. In 1592, she married the Baron Christophe de Rabutin-Chantal. Jane loved her husband deeply and theirs was a happy marriage, despite Christophe’s occasional infidelities. He was very much involved in court life, loved hunting and had not the slightest interest in managing his household and estates. This task he gave into Jane’s capable hands. She proved to be a skillful administrator, and by establishing certain economic principles, she was able to pay off Christophe’s debts and make the place a profitable venture.
Jane and Christophe had four children: three daughters, Marie-Aimee, Francoise, and Charlotte, and one son, Celse-Benigne. She also reared and educated Christophe’s illegitimate daughter, Claudine de Chantal. In 1601, tragedy struck. Christophe was accidentally shot and killed while hunting with a friend. Jane was devastated; her grief knew no bounds, and it was a long time before she could bring herself to forgive the person responsible for his death.
Following Christophe’s death, Jane’s father-in-law demanded that she make her home with him and take over the supervision of his estate. He threatened to disinherit her children unless she complied with his wishes. Once again, she set to work to bring order out of chaos and she was very successful. Not only did she manage the property, but she reared her father-in-law’s illegitimate children, suffered much from their mother, the titled housekeeper of the home. She also saw to the spiritual and physical needs of the poor of the area, and even set up a soup kitchen which she operated out of the castle.
In 1604, Jane was invited by her brother, the Archbishop of Bourges, to attend a series of Lenten sermons being given by the learned and charismatic new Bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales. Jane and Francis were introduced to one another and immediately established a bond of friendship that was to produce a Gospel-based spirituality that would be a treasure to the Church for all ages.
Francis confided to Jane his desire to found a religious order that would be welcoming to women seeking a deep relationship with God, but who for one reason or another could not have with the physical rigors of traditional religious life. In 1610, they officially established the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. Like Francis, Jane was a good spiritual guide She advised the nuns on their prayer life as well as the practicalities of living in community. After Francis’ death in 1622, Jane continued the work, founding eighty-six houses of the Visitation by the time of her death in 1641. She was beatified in 1751 and canonized in 1767. The Church in the United States celebrates her feast on August 18.
The Basilica of the Visitation
The Basilica of the Visitation is located in the town of Annecy, Haute Savoie, France. About 30 miles from Geneva, Switzerland.
It is the highest symbol of the religious past of the city dominates Crêt d’Annecy and the surrounding area. A landmark throughout the city Annecy, one can observe the tip of the Visitation for miles around.
Built between 1909 and 1930, it was consecrated by Cardinal Tedeschini in 1949. On the Gothic Revival style, this basilica has acquired the name of Visitation to honour a hidden mystery of the church : « the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. »
There are inside beautiful mosaics and stained glass windows that recount the life of St. François de Sales and Jeanne de Chantal, whose bronze caskets are exposed, and a masterpiece of casting Paccard; a carillon of 36 bells.
Link of the story of the stained glass windows. http://web1.desales.edu/assets/salesian/PDF/AnnecyWINDOWS.pdf
The visitation is not only a historical site that can be visited. It also houses within it a community of Visitation nuns who lives in the shadow of the steeple, in a prayer life that she shares with visitors who are interested.
It is possible to visit the Basilica of the Visitation at Annecy, at any time through its daily open from 7am to 12pm and 2pm to 7pm, 6pm in winter.