he legend of the Patron Virgin of Valenciennes (Vale of Swans) has been alive for some 1000 years in the hearts of its inhabitants. In the beginning of the XI th century, a sudden and merciless epidemy ravaged the town, causing over 8000 deaths in a few days.


It is in 1008, two days before the anniversary of her Nativity, that the Madonna beloved of the people of Valenciennes appeared to a hermit, a saintly man named Bertholin. As the plague ravaged the town, the Virgin ordered him to tell the inhabitants that they were to fast and pray all night, and that she would work marvels for them in exchange.

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The miracle of 1008 (Hubert Cailleau, 1552 — ms 1183 from the Library of Douai


As they had fervently prayed, the Virgin came down from the sky, surrounded with angels. With a red cord she held in her hand, she encircled the town and its suburbs, leaving behind her the miraculous cord. Then she asked the hermit to organize a general procession, following the path of the heaveny cord, on the day of her nativity, so that the contagion would stop.

To that end, every year on September 8, a procession follows the path of the Saint-Cordon, or Holy Cord.

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