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Our Lady of Consolation


from Beaugency to Rome: a journey through documents

1. Our Lady of Consolation, plaster, 1647, Rome, Generalate of the Ursulines of the Roman Union.

     As soon as you cross the threshold of the Generalate, it is the statue of Our Lady of Consolation that welcomes visitors (fig. 1). This sculpture, modelled in plaster and coming from the Ursuline Monastery of Beaugency in France, carries with it a history spanning almost four centuries.

     The tradition of the cult of Our Lady of Consolation dates back to the apparition of the Virgin Mary to St Monica, to whom she gave a leather belt, telling her: "that She will consider those who show themselves adorned with this most holy sign to be her dearest children". It is precisely on this occasion that the appellation 'Our Lady of Consolation' was born.

But how is such devotion acquired by the Ursulines?

The tradition has its roots within the Augustinian Order, where it is very old and is based on various celestial interventions;[1] first St Ambrose, and later St Augustine, wore the leather belt, similar to the one the Virgin had given to St Monica. When the 'Company of St. Ursula' became a monastic order in the 17th century, the Ursulines, in adopting the Rule of St. Augustine, embraced all the privileges associated with the Augustinian Order, including the veneration of Our Lady of Consolation. It is in this era that one can notice, within the monasteries, the new impetus of two devotions: devotion to the Holy Angels and Marian devotion. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin was firmly anchored within the various Ursuline monasteries and often expressed itself in identical forms.


     But let us look at the origin of Marian devotion in Beaugency, the birthplace of our sculpture.

     From the Annals of Beaugency[2] we know that «the statue of Our Lady of Consolation was raised to the glory of Mary on the occasion of all the stratagems used by hell to destroy our holy Order since its birth».[3]

What is the history of the monastery of Beaugency? Let us quickly review some milestones:

  • On 29 August 1629, a small group of Ursulines arrived from Orléans with the mission to found a monastery whose future chapel, according to the act of obedience, would be dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels.
  • In 1647, the old building in which the community lived had become inadequate and was in danger of collapsing, Mother Anne Tardif de Sainte Madeleine [4], foundress of the convent and Prioress at the time, decided together with her Council to build a real convent.
  • The foundation stone was laid on 24 April 1647: «The devoted daughters of St Augustine and St Ursula have chosen Jesus Christ as their Founder»,[5]  the construction was finished twenty years later, in 1667, as the plaque on which the dates are engraved reminds us.

It is within this building that the statue of Our Lady of Consolation stands. The Annals first mention her at the time of the Revolution, when her devotion was already widely rooted. In 1792, the sisters were expelled from their convent. Revolutionaries wanted to remove and destroy the statue, but it was so heavy that they could not move it, so they gave up. Later, Sr François de Léry de Sainte Euphrasie came to entrust herself and her sisters to the Virgin Mary and asked for the help of a convent worker to take the statue away.[6] The good man easily carried it away himself and placed it in a safe place. The Annals do not say what this safe and secret place was. For about thirty years the nuns faced various vicissitudes: expulsion, dispersion, imprisonment for some, refuge in private homes, they were then precariously housed in the cramped and dilapidated 'little convent' until the day when, after many complex procedures, the bishop authorised them to return to the 'big convent' on 2 May 1824. «We were so happy that we did it the same day! [...] and we relocated the Holy Virgin to the same place she had occupied thirty seven years before».[7]

     From then on, the statue became an object of growing veneration, which extended beyond the city limits.

On 13 July 1834, Monsignor de Beauregard, Bishop of Orléans, was received by the community: «He went to visit the miraculous statue. He praised the sculpture, but reproached it heavily for being painted, noting that it had hardened its features». Then he pronounced the words: «Hail Mary, with a faith so vivid that it penetrated all his spiritual daughters».[8]

On 15 June 1851, at the request of the chaplain, the statue of Our Lady of Consolation was enriched with 40 days of indulgence for each Hail Mary recited before her.[9]


The Annals record several miracles that occurred through the intercession of Our Lady of Consolation:

  • 2. Urszula Ledóchowska, oil and acrylic on canvas, 1984, Rome, Generalate of the Ursulines of the Roman Union.
    On 1 September 1884, Sr Madeleine, crippled since June 1883, left her crutches at Our Lady of Consolation.[10]
  • In the autumn of 1896, a scarlet fever epidemic struck Beaugency. They feared contagion within the boarding school and, to ward it off, they went in procession to Our Lady of Consolation with the promise to renew that offer every three years if they escaped contagion. In fact the Ursulines and their pupils were spared.[11]
  • In February 1897, Mother St Casimir, Prioress, fell seriously ill. A novena to Our Lady of Consolation enabled her recovery.[12]
  • In July 1897, a young Ursuline nun from Krakow, Sr Urszula Ledóchowska[13] (fig. 2), who had come to Beaugency to perfect her French, used her artistic talent to decorate the small altar of Our Lady of Consolation (figs. 3-5).[14]
  • In September 1897, the start of the new school year did not predict well: an Our Lady of Consolation novena was started to obtain enrolments.[15]
  • The Ursulines of Beaugency were on friendly terms with the Benedictines of Rue Monsieur, in Paris. On 8 December 1898, the superior of these Benedictines, for whom prayers had been requested to Our Lady of Consolation, sent «a magnificent metal crown and another for the Child Jesus».[16] That same evening, to the singing of a hymn, the crown was put in place and the novena carried on; but the nun did not recover and died on 30 December.




3,4,5. Decoration of the pedestal on which the statue of Our Lady of Consolation was placed in Beaugency, Sister Urszula Ledóchowska, 1897, detail, Beaugency, Archives des Ursulines de l'Union Romaine - Province FBS.


Years passed and, in 1904, the Community of Beaugency became part of the Roman Union. Affiliation was officially approved on 25 January 1904.[17] On 7 July of the same year the French Parliament voted the law against congregations dedicated to teaching, on the 11th the law became official. On 13th July the Ursulines of Beaugency were ordered to close the house and empty the premises by 1st October: the furniture and various objects were put up for sale. The situation became more and more serious and it was feared that new outrageous episodes could affect the much venerated statue. «Our good Mother Prioress (Mother Angela) thought it prudent for us to separate from Our Lady of Consolation. On the designated day, the entire community came in procession to her altar, renewing their act of consecration and asking for her blessing. Many tears flowed: she was dear to us in so many ways! On 6 July, the venerated statue was placed on the railway and arrived in Rome on the 9th. The Reverend Mother General [Mother Marie de Saint-Julien Aubry] was happy to host it. It was placed in the Novitiate [Rome Villa Maria monastery, fig. 6]».[18] The sculpture later followed the movements of the General Government, first placed at the Generalate in Via Nomentana 34 in Rome, and then, with the construction of the new Generalate in Via Nomentana 236, also in Rome (1932), where it found its final location at the foot of the grand staircase at the entrance to the building.


6. AGUUR Ga2, Maison Généralice, Villa Maria, Our Lady of Consolation, 1904 post. 7. Our Lady of Consolation, plaster, 1954, Beaugency, Ursuline Monastery, cast from the original of 1647.


     In Beaugency, history continued its course with new dispersions for the sisters who were forced into exile in Belgium; the Ursulines of Beaugency were able to return to their home in 1920 and gradually recovered. 1953-54 was proclaimed a Marian year by the Church on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. During this year, a cast of the statue of Our Lady of Consolation was made by the Francesco Rosa studio in Rome, destined for Beaugency where it arrived in early December 1954: « We had the joy of being able to pray the rosary before Our Lady of Consolation who arrived just in time for the closing of the Marian year».[19] The statue fills the space that had been empty for 50 years (fig. 7).




8,9,10. Our Lady of Consolation, plaster, 1647, Rome, Generalate of the Ursulines of the Roman Union, during restoration.


     The feast of Our Lady of Consolation is celebrated on 4 September and every year the Ursulines renew their consecration to the Virgin Mary.


Between March and April of this year 2024, the Generalate promoted the restoration of the sculpture of Our Lady of Consolation. The delicate operation was performed by an expert restorer, Dr. Matilde Migliorini, who restored the statue to its former glory (figs. 8-10). The sculpture was completely covered with a homogenous layer of ivory-grey repainting. This particularly thick layer conspicuously altered the modelling by flattening the details of the Virgin's face, hair and drapery. From some gaps in this layer of repainting, it was possible to catch a glimpse of an underlying grey-green colouring, which can be interpreted as an original patination (fig. 11), probably intended to simulate limestone, as was often the case with plaster sculptures. Matilde intervened on the statue by carrying out a gradual and homogenous cleaning, then plastered the gaps, matching them in tone with watercolours, and integrated the missing parts of the cross holding the Child in the right hand, restoring the statue to its correct legibility.

By Emanuela Lauro, Ph.D, General Archivist


11. Our Lady of Consolation, plaster, 1647, Rome, Generalate of the Ursulines of the Roman Union, original patination, detail.
12. Our Lady of Consolation, plaster, 1647, Rome, Generalate of the Ursulines of the Roman Union, before restoration.
13. Our Lady of Consolation, plaster, 1647, Rome, Generalate of the Ursulines of the Roman Union, after restoration.


1.  Cf. Journal des Illustres Religieuses de l'Ordre de Ste Ursule, tome IV, p. 269 ff. The Journal is preserved in the Archives of the Community of Beaugency, France and was consulted by Sister Anne de St Augustin Lemaire, osu (1913-2003) together with the Annales de la Communauté de Beaugency, who left us a short typescript on Marian devotion entitled Pelerinage Marial à travers les Archives de Beaugency, Beaugency 5 Décembre 1996.

2.  The Annals of the community were compiled at the end of the 19th century on the basis of documents relating to the origins of the monastery, meticulously compiled, sometimes with some imprecisions.

3.  Annales de la Communauté de Beaugency, tome I, p. 96, Archives de la communauté de Beaugency.

4.  An anonymous handwritten biography of his mother Tardif (Beaugency 1602-1675) is preserved in the Beaugency Community Archives.

5.  Annales, tome I, p. 64.

6.   Cf. ibid., p. 95.

7.  Ibid, p. 105 ff.

8. Ibid, p. 118.

9.  Cf. ibid., p. 174.

10.  Cf. Annales, tome II, p. 37.

11.  Cf. ibid., p. 255.

12.  Cf. ibid., p. 258.

13.  Urzsula Ledóchowska, born Julia Maria (1865-1939), arrived in Beaugency in 1896 and was a member of the community for a year; she founded the Congregation of the Ursulines of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Agonising in 1907, was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2003.

14.  Cf. Annales, tome II, p. 263.

15.  Cf. ibid., p. 268.

16.  Annales, tome III, p. 10. The crowns have been lost.

17.  AGUUR, Fa, France Nord, Beaugency, 23, Indult 1904 January 25, f. n.n.

18.  Cf. Annales, tome III, at 7 July 1904.

19.  Archives de la Communauté de Beaugency, Diarium Noviciat, 7 Décembre 1954.