Sunday, December 11, 2016

Luxarazzi 101: Grand Ducal Gifts to the Treasury of Our Lady of Consolation

Photo: Cour grand-ducale / Guy Wolff
At the time of the wedding of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa gave a number of symbolic gifts to "Our Lady of Luxembourg", the statue of the Virgin Mary venerated at Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Luxembourg city and probably familiar to you from the annual Octave celebrations. The Grand Duchess' gifts to the treasury of "Our Lady of Luxembourg" were by no means the first ones by members of the Grand Ducal Family.

The cult of "Our Lady of Luxembourg, Comforter of the Afflicted", was initiated by the Jesuits in 1624. In 1666, "Our Lady" was elected as the protectress of the city in 1666 and of the Duchy of Luxembourg in 1678. Originally staunchly Lutheran, the Grand Ducal Family became Catholic with the death of Grand Duke Wilhelm IV. He had married Infanta Maria Ana of Portugal, a Catholic Bragança princess. It was agreed that the couple's sons would be raised in their father's faith, while girls would become Catholics like their mother. As the couple had six daughters but no sons, the Grand Ducal Family thus became Catholic (like the majority of the population of the Grand Duchy then and now).

Over the past more than three hundred years there have been numerous donations to "Our Lady" by all kinds of Luxembourgers. There have been donations in kind, jewellery, ex voto, clothing, etc. Many of them are very valuable objects, some of them artistically or historically but also emotionally or personally important to the people who donated them. However, these days there are less objects donated to "Our Lady of Consolation" based on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Consolatrix becoming the patron of the city of Luxembourg in 1978. Then Archbishop Jean Hengen, inspired by Canon Jean Heinisch, asked believers to donate money to charitable organisations instead of jewellery for the statue. From this idea a foundation for people with disabilities grew: Tricentenaire.

Photo: Catholic Church of Luxembourg
Already some of the earliest Catholic members of the Grand Ducal Family made donations to the statue of the Consolatrix. The treasury includes a golden cross with enamel inlays of pictures of Jesus Christ as well as three of the evangelists. The fifth inlay is a semi-precious stone. On its back, the cross is inscript with the names of Marie-Adélaïde, Charlotte and Hilda, three of the daughters of Grand Duke Wilhelm IV and Grand Duchess Maria Ana, as well as the date June 8, 1908. 

Other jewellery gifted to "Our Lady" include a medallion with a wedding picture of Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa as well as a picture of their five children; a rosary made of rock crystal that once belonged to Grand Duchess Maria Teresa's grandmother Maria Narcisa Alvarez Tabio; as well as a rosary, inscribed with "New York, January 23, 1945" (her birthday) belonging to Grand Duchess Charlotte, which accompanied her in exile and she gifted to the Consolatrix after her return to Luxembourg.

The dress made for the statue of Mother Mary and the Baby Jesus from the train of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa's Balmain wedding dress as well as a veil belonging to the late Countess Alix de Lannoy, the mother of Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie, may be the most famous piece of clothing donated to "Our Lady of Luxembourg" but they certainly weren't the first ones - and not even the first wedding dress!

A coat made out of the ceremonial gown
of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria,
husband of Princess Antonia of Luxembourg
(Photo: Catholic Church of Luxembourg)
Princess Antonia, one of the younger sisters of Grand Duchess Charlotte, gifted the Consolatrix with a turquoise blue coat with golden embroidery made out of the ceremonial gown of her husband, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, as well as a white satin dress, hat and ribbon with silver embroidery for the infant Jesus. 

After her marriage to Count Knut of Holstein-Ledreborg in 1951, Princess Marie-Gabrielle, daughter of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix, had parts of her wedding dress remade into a clothing for the statue of "Our Lady of Consolation" as well as the baby Jesus. The coat, dress, hat and ribbon made from her wedding dress are adorned with silver flowers as well as the coats of arms of the Houses of Holstein-Ledreborg and Luxembourg-Nassau. 

In addition to these, there may be even more gifts to the statue of "Our Lady of Luxembourg, Comforter of the Afflicted" by the Grand Ducal Family. A short while ago, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame started an inventory of all art objects of the church including the treasury of the Consolatrix. A big thank you in this regard to the cathedral's church council for sharing much of the available information with us already!

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