#3: in Which We Go to Lisieux, Not THE Zoo, Much to Frankie’s Disappointment

by | May 31, 2014 | France, Travel, Travel With Kids | 6 comments

But first . . . Chartres!

If you like Gothic, get thee to Chartres. It’s a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture. The present cathedral was begun in 1194 and dedicated in 1260, sixty-six years! But if you saw it, you’d understand. Every inch of it is carved. It’s also notable for having NOT been destroyed in any of the French Revolutions or World Wars.

We arrived in the afternoon and got settled in to our former convent hotel, then headed back out that evening to see a laser light show projected onto the facades of the cathedral. France is pretty far north, and it doesn’t get dark until close to 10pm, so we were conflicted about keeping the kids up to see it. But the people we met raved about it, and we ended up glad to have let the kids stay up to see it. It was one of their favorite experiences of the trip.

The next day, we went to Mass and toured the cathedral.

It’s most famous attractions are (clockwise from upper left):

  • This statue of John the Baptist (in the middle), thin from fasting, he wears his camel hair tunic and points to a medallion of the Lamb of God; a dragon is beneath his feet. 
  • An astrological clock dating from the 16th century. It told not only the time but the day of the week, the month of the year, the time of sunrise and sunset, the phase of the moon and the current sign of the zodiac. Unfortunately, no one has known how to make it work since 1793. 
  • Our Lady of the Pillar, 1508. 
  • The “Blue Virgin” stained glass window, created around 1150. And the “Sancta Camisia,” the tunic of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Chartres since 876. The relic was said to have been given to the cathedral by Charlemagne, who received it as a gift during a trip to Jerusalem. Apparently, when you’re the Holy Roman Emperor, you can get some pretty great souvenirs.

Praying for intentions.

The next morning, we were off to Lisieux.
We made it in time for Sunday Mass. (If you count “just before the gospel reading” as “in time.”)

And toured the Basilica, built between 1929 and 1954, to honor the newly canonized (1925) St. Therese of Lisieux. Like the Rosary Basilica at Lourdes, it’s covered in mosaics. The style has an almost picture book-type whimsy that I find very endearing. And somehow appropriate to the Little Flower.

Teal and orange are my favorite colors.

Then we visited Les Buissonnets, the childhood home of St. Therese and her sisters and her father, Bl. Louis Martin, after the death of her mother, Bl. Zelie Martin.

It’s a beautiful, comfortable home, quite a contrast with the dark, tiny former prison we visited  in which St. Bernadette had lived in Lourdes. I always find it so comforting to see that there are saints from all circumstances and walks of life. Paupers and kings, little girls from fine brick houses and little girls from one room hovels, can all get to heaven. There’s a way for each of us.

If you don’t like seeing the actual cut off hair of a saint, don’t look too closely at that photo on the upper left.

Here’s Gus and I from our trip in 2007 (when we needed a miracle), recreated in 2014. We haven’t changed a bit.

And Frankie DID get to see St. Therese’s toys. But unfortunately, they were behind glass, so he did NOT get to play with them. Hate to say I told you so, kid.

How cute is her little Mass kit?!

My Little Flowers with the Little Flower, plus one grumpy little brother.

In case you missed them, here are recaps of the parts of the trip where we go to Lourdes and get stranded in Canada.

Next up, installment number four: my very favorite tapestry-not-tapestry and the bloody battlefields and bed-and-breakfasts of Normandy.


  1. Lily

    I love these posts. I need a little vacation and this is the closest I'm getting to France these days! 🙂 thank you for sharing'

  2. Nanacamille

    These are both beautiful European cathedrals and Chartes is centuries old. In the past there have been very few French people attending the masses only tourists wandering around and a few of us kneeling for mass
    Not this trip there were lots of French as well as foreigners at all of the masses we attended from lourdes to Paris which is very encouraging. There looks to be a resurgence of the Catholic faith and attendance at Sun mass in France. It's wonderful to see and hope the feeling spreads around all of Europe. Or maybe it is new communicant Gus spreading his glow of Communion with the Lord all over the country. His smile has been big enough to win over an entire nation.

  3. Christine

    I would love to see Lisieux sometime! Maybe you can answer this weird question of mine….St. Therese's hair in your picture is blonde. I assume it was cut from her head after her death (?). But in all the photos I see of Therese later in life (when she's not wearing a veil), her hair appears to have turned dark. Can you shed any light on this?

    • Kendra

      This was the hair they cut off when she entered the convent. Most (at least the ones I know) habited nuns have their hair cut very short underneath their veil. The picture of her as Joan of Arc is a wig.

  4. Tracy Bua Smith

    I love all your posts about your amazing trip, but especially this one about my favorite saint, Saint Therese! She's my girl 🙂 I loved seeing where she used to live! The lives of the Saints are amazing! Thanks for sharing!

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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