Who does not love a mystery …

La Talaudiere Bermuda Triangle? Mary Celeste? Loch Ness Monster? Will such mysteries ever be solved? Probably not. Because what will replace them? Johnny Depp’s shoe size? I doubt it. France too has her fair share of mysteries. I’ll be writing about these in the months to come. Today, I’m starting with the Blandine Case. It […]


La Talaudiere

Bermuda Triangle? Mary Celeste? Loch Ness Monster?

Will such mysteries ever be solved? Probably not. Because what will replace them? Johnny Depp’s shoe size? I doubt it.

France too has her fair share of mysteries. I’ll be writing about these in the months to come. Today, I’m starting with the Blandine Case.

It was 1981. Easter time. A 14-year-old girl, Blandine Piegeay, claimed that she’d seen the Virgin Mary. No, not a picture of, but in the flesh. Flesh? Well, sort of.

This happened in the town of La Talaudière. It’s 3 miles (5 kms) north-east from Saint-Etienne which is 38 miles (62 kms) from the city of Lyon and 322 miles (519 kms) from Paris. Once the town was known as the “ville noire” – the black town. This was because of its coal mines: The town was founded in 1872 when France’s coal production was booming. Today though the town is known as the “ville fleurie” – the flower village; twice it has won the annual “most flowery village” contest as its 6700 inhabitants will tell you.

Blandine was of peasant stock. She was also a deeply religious young girl: Her parents Jean and Aimée, saw to that. That Easter of 1981 she was walking to school when an apparition suddenly appeared before her on the road. Recounting what she’d seen, she called the apparition an “angel”. The angel told that the she would shortly be receiving a visit from the Virgin Mary. Two days later, sure thing, so she did. Blandine would describe the Holy Virgin as: “She was all in white with a blue veil, a gold cross and the face of a young girl.” She told Blandine that she should assemble as many people as she could in the backyard of the Piegeay home that Sunday, April 19, at 2.25pm. It was to be Easter Sunday.

The local priest was sceptical, if not downright angry. Needless to say, few took notice of him and most of the town’s folk tried to get into the Piegeay’s backyard that day. So, did the Virgin turn up? Blandine said that she did, but only she had seen her.

The Virgin was to appear 31 times in all to Blandine. And again no-one else ever saw her though Jean Piegeay said that he had once heard her speak to his daughter. That had happened when the Virgin had suddenly appeared in the family’s kitchen: She loved to just appear suddenly and most of all in the kitchen.

The Virgin used to talk about all sorts of things to Blandine: Once she even reprimanded her for eating too many sweets. Another time she told Blandine that she didn’t want to disturb her school time-table, so she would be appearing only over weekends.

After that Easter Sunday and despite that only Blandine had seen the Virgin, pilgrims began flocking to the town. Blandine was a star. She appeared on television sitting at the kitchen table beside her mom and dad. Her dad did most of the talking with Blandine filling in little details, or at times just nodding to confirm what her dad was saying. Like she would confirm that she would only have to gaze at the sun for it to start spinning and for the Virgin to appear.

Retorted the town’s mayor: “If you look at the sun until you have the impression that it is spinning, it is not any miracle. It is that your retina is completely burned.”

It needs to be said however: Blandine did not have a retina problem …

Rather sooner than later, Blandine disappeared from France’s television screens. The Virgin though did keep on visiting her, but not over weekends anymore. Said Jean Piegeay at the time: “The Virgin will not appear either Saturday or Sunday to punish the journalists.”

Today, Blandine’s married and a mother and she’s left La Talaudière to live happily ever after somewhere else. She’s been quoted as having said not so long ago: “I know my apparitions were true. Why would I have invented them?”

As for the town of La Talaudière, all that appear there these days at Easter are tulips.

Yet, that same year of 1981 the Holy Virgin had also appeared in two other places. One was in Kibeho in Rwanda, and the other in Medugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina (then still Yugoslavia).

In Kibeho the Virgin appeared to seven teenagers in their classroom. The seven began to cry, had tremors and one even fell down into a faint. For the next 7 years – until 1988 – the Virgin kept on returning to speak some more to the seven.

What did “The Lady of Kibeho” tell them?

Once, she said: “Although I am the Mother of God, I am simple and humble. I always place myself where you are. I love you as you are. I never reproach my little ones.” She also warned them: “You are distracted by the goods of this world. I have seen many of my children getting lost and I have come to show them the true way.”

At times Jesus was with Mary but he remained silent.

It needs to be pointed out that Kibeho was the site of a displaced person refugee camp in the Hutu-Tutsi ethnic conflict during the early 1990s and that most of those who took shelter there had been massacred. One victim was one of those seven teenagers. The girl’s name was Marie-Claire Mukangango. She was 21 years old when she faced the Virgin for the first time and 34 when she faced death …

In Medugorje the Virgin appeared to six teenagers. That was on Wednesday, June 24 1981. The Virgin was holding a baby in her arms. She did not speak but only motioned the six to come closer. They didn’t: Scared, they ran away. The following day, however, the Virgin returned and again motioned for them to come closer. They did and then they fell to their knees at her feet and started to pray. Mary prayed with them. Then she was gone, but to return again and again.

I don’t think I have to tell you what happened in Yugoslavia, about the bloodshed of ethnic cleansing, now do I? But today calm having been restored (can I say peace?) millions of pilgrims from the world over visit Medugorje. It has therefore become one of the world’s most holy of sites.

The Catholic Church has not (perhaps yet?) recognised the Medugorje, Kibeho or La Talaudière apparitions of the Holy Virgin. However that the Holy Virgin had appeared in three different places – three different countries very far apart – in the same year, is food for thought. She had done so only once before. That was in 1933 but then all three appearances had been in Belgium.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

3 Responses

1-20-2009 at 09:17:00

I had a friend tell me once that when living in the Phillipines she went with friends to see a reputed apparition that had been appearing in the sky. The BVM arrived on schedule and my friend said that she saw her and heard her speak. I have no doubt that the people saw what they said they’d seen – but whether there was a genuine apparition or it was all just the power of suggestion, who knows?

1-20-2009 at 12:28:00

I wonder why the Virgin appears only to teenagers or young girls. If I am not mistaken she hardly ever appears to adults. She also seems to favour females.

Catherine Modin

1-21-2009 at 08:14:00

Hysteria. Nothing but hysteria.

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