THE LEGEND OF LIGNOU

On the hill above Couterne we can see the chapel next to the ancient Normandy to Maine road. The recent construction is in a neo-roman-byzantian style as is the Sacré Coeur at Montmartre Paris. But this has been a sacred site for the surrounding area for centuries. The presence of Mayflower trees, the prominent position, the ancient Templar command post across the road, all show that this site has had a special significance for many centuries. The "miraculous" statue of the virgin was originally in the chapel of the chateau at Lignou de Briouze. (15 miles to the north the other side of La Ferté Macé). Towards the end of the 16th century the sire of Lignou was called away by his king Henry IV, to fight in Italy. He left his chateau in the hands of his superintendant and his wife. The superintendant looked after the chateau and the wife. With the sire of Lignou on the return trip the superintendant was not in an enviable postion. All the domestiques and peasants of Lignou came to the hill overlooking Couterne, as was the custom, to greet their master. They fired a round into the air but the superintendant took the oportunity to fire directly at his master. Mortely wounded, the lord of Lignou cried out " Our lady! Save me!" All those present saw the statue from the chapel at the chateau appear in the may tree. After burying their master the good folk of Lignou carried the statue back to the chateau. The next morning it was missing from the chapel and found to be in the maytree at the fatefull site. Again they carried it back to Lignou and a third time it appeared in the tree. The people of Lignou de Brioze then decided to build a sanctuary on this site which since that day has been called Lignou de Couterne. The stained glass windows at the rear of the church recount this legend. Starting at the bottom left and finishing top right. The statue is 60 cm high (2ft) and made of an unknown material. It is in a unique style. Bare foot on a rounded pedastal the virgin carries the christ child turned towards the pilgrim. In her right hand she holds the folds of her robe. Jewels in the hair and on the ears, and the young face are remeniscent of the italian renaissance. The chapel has been destroyed and rebuilt, and simply rebuilt several times. In 1568 during the war of the religions, the chapel was burnt down by the protestants at the same time as the church in the town. In 1629, the chapel was rebuilt by the baron Montatere. During the revolution the chapel was subjected to various outrages. It was restored in 1800. A tower was built with a bell in 1826. In 1862 the bell tower was covered by a slate dome surmounted by a statue of the virgin in gold plated cast iron, visible for miles around. At the biginning of this century, the chapel was rebuilt. The preist of Couterne oversaw the project, designed by Mr Pignard, architect of the diocees. The 19 August 1928, the bishop of Sées dedicated the new chapel in the presence of 10000 pilgrims.

ROUND AND ABOUT THE CHAPEL

The legendary May tree renewed throughout the ages

The cemetery and it's granit cross in the midst of the graves. The cross was erected in 1666 by the family "Dieu le Venit" the squire of Noës. The cylindrical arms of the cross are decorated with hemispheres. On the flanks of the pedestal are the emblems of the passion: crown of thorns, ladder, lance, and two monograms, one surmounted by a heart the other by a cross. A latin inscription translates to " Tree of life and glory, I abound! Terror of pergutory, hope of the world. Passer by, if abide by me I will abide by you." Behind the chapel are found the tombs of the deFrotté family.

THE FRESNE CROSS

Leaving the cemetery behind the chapel one can follow a track for 200 yds to come to the cross of the Fresne. A 100 yds to your half right is the farm yard where there used to be a mansion called the FRESNE. The squires of this manor erected this cross in 1661. On the base, in relief, are depicted the instruments of the passion and the arms of the Mallet family. According to the legend, Charles Mallet traced out the shape of his family's arms with his blood stained finger as he died.