the Carmel

In Lisieux: the old stories of the two exhumations

Sister Thérèse was buried in the Lisieux cemetery on October 4, 1897.

From 1910, his diocesan Process with a view to Beatification was instructed, and according to the normal course of the process, it was ended on September 6, 1910 by the exhumation of the remains deposited in the cemetery: these remains were then handed over – ie all the bones, because there was nothing else left except a few pieces of flesh and clothing – in a new coffin to ensure better preservation.

In 1915 the Apostolic Process took place, followed by a new exhumation which took place on August 9 and 10, 1917. From the oak and lead coffin buried in 1910 in the shelter of a simple brick vault, then, in the depository of the cemetery of Lisieux, to the real recognition of the remains which were cleaned of the earth deposited on them (between 1897 and 1910) and carefully wrapped in fine linen to be transferred again in a small carved oak receptacle ( 1m 20 X 0,40 X 0,30), himself placed in a new coffin of leaded rosewood, all buried in a brick vault, in the same cemetery. It was not until the Beatification was officially announced that the solemn and definitive transfer of the mortal remains of Sister Thérèse took place, on March 26, 1923.

So there is nothing left in the Lisieux cemetery. The mortal remains of Thérèse, solemnly recognized according to a detailed and official report, were then destined to rest in the Chapel of the Carmel of Lisieux, where transformations had taken place in anticipation of the Beatification, in particular the construction of a small chapel on an aisle named "CHAPELLE DE LA HUNTING", which contained a shrine of goldsmithery showing a statue of Saint Thérèse asleep in death, named the Holy Body: in an excavation of this statue, all the bones were placed of the coasts of the Saint.

In an excavation made under the shrine, which can be accessed from the rear, are all the rest of the bones enclosed in a small vermeil shrine (offered by the devotees of Brazil, hence its name of Shrine of Brazil).

Given the popular devotion to Saint Thérèse and her relics, certain bones were donated as early as 1923 (to the Holy Father, to the Bishop of Bayeux), and an insignia relic was removed as soon as the work for the construction of a Basilica had to be undertaken: thus in the Basilica, (first stone in 1929 and consecration in 1954), one preserves and one venerates in an appropriate reliquary the bones of the right forearm, considered to have been "the human instrument" of the Story of a Soul.

Another component of this story: the exhibition of the relics which takes place every year at the end of September celebrations, during a procession going from the Carmel to the Basilica. The small so-called "Brazilian" shrine is solemnly transported there for a prayer vigil at the Basilica, then Mass and pontifical celebration the next day, the last Sunday of September. During the afternoon, the small reliquary is carried from the Basilica to the Cathedral of Lisieux, before being brought back to the Carmel. Perhaps the term ostention is inappropriate, because it is not a question of exposing the relics, but only the reliquary which contains them.

On the occasion of the proclamation of Saint Thérèse as "Patroness of France", an exhibition of this reliquary took place in 1945 in Paris, and in 1947 in various places in France.

For the year 1997, the centenary of the death of Saint Thérèse, it was again requested that the reliquary be allowed to travel: Paris, Lyon, Marseille, cities that Thérèse herself had visited on the occasion of her pilgrimage to Rome in 1887 These visits had an impact and completely unforeseen consequences, the relics were requested in many journeys criss-crossing France, Belgium...

So the requests poured in from abroad and it was an opportunity to think about what to do, given the risk that such trips involved for the very integrity of the relics: a whole year in Brazil , 6 months in Italy, 4 months in the USA, 3 months in the Philippines and Hong Kong, etc... It was no longer a question of sending all the relics, but a part, which was transferred with the agreement and under the supervision of the Vatican in a reliquary of precious wood, an exact replica of the "shrine of Brazil" with the same dimensions, but not in goldsmithery.

Of course, we are also constantly asked for relics: priests, churches, altars, the faithful want to possess a lesser parcel of bones (given more and more rarely, because large bones cannot be cut) hair, clothes, etc. ... It's pretty much continuous, coming from all over the world. Relics, in the canonical sense, are the remains of the bodies of saints. Souvenirs, objects or otherwise, are not strictly speaking "relics". We must also set aside the "writings" all published, but the originals of which are scrupulously kept in our Archives and never leave.

First exhumation

September 6, 1910 at the Lisieux Cemetery

Extract of : Exhumation Appendix p.p. 103-109, in Some of the Graces and Healings Attributed to the Intercession of the Servant of God Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Rains of Roses, 1911.


Many times during her last illness, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had announced that only bones would be found of her, according to her wishes.

“You have loved the good Lord too much, he will do wonders for you, we will find your body without corruption,” said a novice to him shortly before his death. - Oh no ! she answered, not that marvel! it would be going out of my little way of humility, little souls must not be able to envy me. »

The exhumation of the remains of the Servant of God, done with the aim of ensuring their preservation and not already exposing them to the veneration of the faithful, took place on September 6, 1910.

We had tried to keep the thing secret, but it was nevertheless known enough to allow several hundred people to come running to the cemetery.

Mgr Lemonnier, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, Mgr de Teil vice-postulator of the cause, MM. Canons Quirié and Dubosq, vicars general, and many priests, including all the members of the Tribunal responsible for examining the Process of Beatification, were present.


The work of the exhumation offered great difficulties, the coffin being placed at a depth of 3 m. 50, and in very poor condition. An expert in these sorts of maneuvers led this one. He slid boards under the coffin, to make an artificial bottom intended to support the other which threatened to collapse; then the whole thing was wrapped in strong canvas held together by strong straps. With a great deal of time and anxiety, they succeeded in reassembling the coffin without accident. When he appeared to his eyes, the Pontiff intoned with a voice of emotion the song of David praising the Lord who “raises the humble from the dust to make him sit with the princes of his people. And while the priests chanted the Laudate pueri Dominum, we saw through the disjointed boards, all green and fresh as on the first day, the palm that on October 4, 1897, had been placed on the virginal remains of the Servant of God. Was it not the symbol of the immortal palm which she had won by the martyrdom of the heart? this martyrdom about which she had written: “At all costs I want to pick the palm of Agnès; if not by blood, it must be by Love. »


The coffin was then opened. Two workmen, the father and the son, were standing nearby; they smelled at this moment a sweet and strong perfume of violets which no natural cause could explain and which deeply moved them. One of these workers is the carpenter who made the coffins.

The clothes appeared in order; they also seemed preserved, but that was only an appearance. The veils and the wimple no longer existed, the coarse frock of the Carmelites had lost all consistency and tore without effort. Finally, as the humble child had wished, only bones were found of her!

One of the doctors present wanted to offer a piece of it to Mgr Lemonnier, but His Majesty opposed it and forbade the least part of it to be taken away. He only accepted the small boxwood cross which had been placed in the hands of the Servant of God.

The old coffin was then placed in a lead coffin placed in an oak coffin. Then they covered the body with new clothes which had been prepared, and the head with a veil which they surrounded with roses, the last ones picked from those same rosebushes of Carmel whose flowers the angelic Thérèse had so often thrown to the foot of Calvary.


At this time, on the order of Mgr Lemonnier, to satisfy the crowd which stationed in the cemetery, silent and collected, one moved aside the fabrics which concealed with the glances the small enclosure of the Carmelites and the coffin was placed on trestles in front of the door. grilled.

For three-quarters of an hour there was no ceasing to file past, to pray, to have objects of piety touched. Monsignor the Bishop of Bayeux had been the first to have the bones touched with pieces of violet silk brought by him for this purpose. Workmen were seen approaching their wedding rings; all those who had worked on the exhumation seemed full of respect. It is estimated that more than five hundred people worshiped the remains, after three hours of waiting.


An extraordinary impression of the supernatural, an emotion of which they were not masters invaded the assistants. The soul of Sister Thérèse doubtless hovered near her mortal remains, happy to offer her Creator the annihilation of her physical being... We felt that something great, solemn was happening. In spite of the lugubrious and humiliating realities of the tomb, the souls, instead of being disconcerted, disturbed, chilled in their faith and their love, felt on the contrary growing the fervor and the tenderness of their veneration.

When the parade was over, a report, written on parchment stamped with the arms of Bishop Lemonnier, was enclosed in a metal tube and placed in the lead coffin. Then this one was closed, on the cover of which is welded a plate with the inscription:

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face.

Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin.


The same text can be read on a copper plate attached to the oak coffin. Two impressions of each of the seals of Mgr Lemonnier and Mgr de Teil were affixed to the solder at the four corners of the lead coffin. All that remained was to attach the oak wood lid.

A few steps from the first tomb, a new one had been dug, two meters deep, where a brick vault had been prepared, the same size as the coffin. Bishop Lemonnier had blessed it when he arrived, and it was there that the precious remains were lowered.

In the evening, the boards removed from the coffin, a few fragments of clothing and the palm, which the indiscreet devotion of the workers had torn to shreds, were brought back to Carmel and the nun in charge of picking them up smelled the perfume of roses twice. Elsewhere, fragments of the clothes and the coffin exhaled the scent of incense.

Another board, detached from the head of the coffin and which could not be found the same day, was also, eight days later, brought back to the monastery. The port sister who had discovered it, somewhat doubting its authenticity, begged Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus to show it with a sensitive sign. She was heard, because several sisters, who had not been warned, were embalmed with a marvelous perfume of incense which was exhaled from this board and which one of them smelled at quite a distance.

But the tender heart of Sister Thérèse still wanted to console those who love her by giving them a striking image of the fullness of life she enjoys in Heaven. One of the souls whom she favored on this occasion with her celestial communications, and who is highly esteemed by pious and enlightened priests, has attested under oath the truth of the account which we are about to read.

This person was very anxious to attend the exhumation and had planned to find out when it would take place, but she thought it was still very far away. The following event happened on the very night following the exhumation, from September 6 to 7, 1910.

In her vision, she first saw a large crowd which she took for both a triumphal procession and a very solemn funeral. "Then," she said, "I saw a young virgin resplendent with light. Her garment of snow and gold sparkled everywhere. I couldn't make out his features, they were so imbued with light. Half lying down, she rose, seeming to emerge from a luminous shroud. With the candor and smile of a child, she wrapped her arms around me and gave me a kiss. At this celestial contact it seemed to me that I was in an ocean of purity and that I was drinking at the source of eternal joys. I have no words to express the intensity of life that emanated from his whole being. Everything in her said without words, with an inexpressible radiance of tenderness, how, in God, hearth of infinite love, the blessed love in Heaven.

Unaware of what was happening in Lisieux, the happy privileged wondered who this young virgin was and why she had appeared to him lying down and emerging from a shroud. Three days later, reading in La Croix the account of the exhumation, she was immediately certain that it was Sister Thérèse who had come to inform her of the event, and she left immediately to thank her for it at her grave.

But it was not enough for the Servant of God to have given her loved ones this proof of affection, to have said to them like the angel to Madeleine: “Why do you seek among the dead the one who is full of life? She still wanted to make them promises for the future.


On September 5, the day before the exhumation, she had appeared to the Reverend Mother Prioress of a foreign Carmel, and telling her that the next day only bones would be found of her, "barely any bones", she had gives a presentiment of the marvels which it must operate in the sequel. The Reverend Mother summarizes them as follows: “These blessed bones will perform dazzling miracles and will be powerful weapons against the devil. »

A few weeks later, the result of the exhumation came to the knowledge of a professor of the University of X., a man of great intellectual value, of eminent piety and, moreover, much favored by the Servant graces of all kinds, for more than ten years that he has known her. He was at first saddened that the angelic virgin had been subjected to the common law, and as he gave way to these melancholy thoughts, he heard an inner voice answer him: "It was the robe of my days. of work that I filed; I'm waiting for the dress of eternal Sunday: I don't care what happens to the other. »

"And then," he said, "I had a light that consoled me, I understood that this dissolution will spread atoms of his body everywhere, so that not only his soul, but also something of his body can be present. and do good on earth.

It seems to me, indeed, that all that really belonged to the body of a saint is a relic, and if so, not only his bones, but also the invisible molecules of matter can carry within them the grace relics. »

Isn't this the answer to this desire so poetically expressed:
“Lord, on your altars more than one fresh rose loves to shine,
She gives herself to you... but I dream of something else; it's stripping me..."

Second exhumation

August 9-10, 1917


Second exhumation and recognition of the remains of the Servant of God Thérèse of the Child Jesus

in Remembrance of the second exhumation and the closing of the Apostolic Process of Sr Thérèse of the Child Jesus, in the Diocese of Bayeux, not paginated.


The first exhumation, of September 6, 1910, had been made under the sole inspiration of His Lordship Monsignor Lemonnier, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux; it had consisted solely of placing the precious body as it was in a new coffin, with a view to better preservation. But before closing the Apostolic Process of the Cause of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, we had to, to comply with the rules of the Church, proceed to an anatomical recognition of the bones by sworn doctors.

For this purpose, Monseigneur the Bishop of Bayeux, accompanied by Monseigneur de Teil, Vice-postulator, and Members of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal in choir habit, went to the cemetery of the city, in the afternoon of August 9, 1917 The first step was to remove from the small vault, built in 1910, the oak and lead coffin which had been deposited there at that time, and to transport it to the chapel of the cemetery, placed with kindness by the Municipality. available to priests and doctors.

This transfer did not take place at the Monastery of Carmel to avoid too many people on the route, a crowd which could have seemed an anticipated glorification of the Servant of God. For the same purpose, the ceremony had been kept as secret as possible; otherwise the whole city, it was said the next day, would have been on its feet. Nevertheless, the news managed to get out, witness the words of the wounded from an ambulance stationed at the nuns' house: “How, my sister, you didn't tell us what is going to happen up there? Well ! know that all the crutches will be there! »


This is how about 3,000 people stayed for almost two whole days at the cemetery, where the small enclosure of the Carmelites rises modestly on the hill. " It's incredible ! naively exclaimed a Lexovian worker, is Lisieux going to become the capital of the world? »

However, a roadblock had been erected to keep the crowd at a respectful distance. The Director of the Maison Henri de Borniol, whose skilful initiative had ensured the happy success of the exhumation of 1910, was once again to direct the delicate maneuver of his best workers.

As soon as the great blackened and deteriorated oak coffin appeared on the ground, the Bishop, yielding to the same inspiration of seven years ago, began the psalm praise Pueri Dominum, which was continued by the assistants. Then, in the midst of an impressive silence, the Pontiff, in the name of the Holy Church, pronounced the excommunication against anyone who dared to steal the smallest fragment of the body, clothes, or coffin of the Servant of God, Thérèse of the Child Jesus.


Then a procession formed in the most perfect order to accompany the funeral chariot of the first class to the depository of the cemetery. It was at this precise moment that, according to the testimony of a privileged few, there as in the Monastery of Carmel, mysterious perfumes suddenly spread. On the white sheet which covered the coffin, the Carmelites had spread the great scapular of homespun, recalling the dear and austere livery of the humble virgin Thérèse.

The established surveillance service stopped the enthusiastic outbursts which might have burst out, when a brave soldier, rushing towards the chariot, touched his helmet to the coffin and kissed it piously.

It was nearly six o'clock in the evening when the chapel of the cemetery, sheltering the venerated remains, was sealed with the seals of the Bishop and the Commissioner of Police to rigorously defend access to it, and soon a vigil of four men of good will, in addition to the civil faction, was organized in the tent erected in the extension of the chapel; among these, two on leave, arriving from the front, made a point of offering themselves for this touching night of voluntary guard.


The next day, August 10, at 3:XNUMX a.m., His Grace Mgr Lemonnier, Mgr de Teil, the other ecclesiastics in charge and the doctors, arrived at the cemetery. A fifth car brought, following them, two nuns from Carmel, authorized by Monsignor to come out of the enclosure, to lay out themselves the precious bones, once recognized. The youngest sister of the Servant of God thus had the opportunity to give her this last testimony of her tenderness, which had become a veneration.


The leaden envelope being opened, it was found that the clothes stretched out seven years ago, on the mortal remains of Sister Thérèse, had hardly more consistency than the old ones, which had fallen into lint, which made the appearance of the perfect preservation of a wide ribbon of white silk, bearing these inscriptions, still shiny, in gold: “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth. After my death, I will make a shower of roses fall. This banner adorned a bouquet of flowers placed on the tomb of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, at the end of August 1910, and the Carmelites had used it to tie the few roses picked in their garden, and placed , the following September 6, in the coffin. Isn't there reason to see in this fact a survival of the spirit of Sister Thérèse? Her virgin remains were not, in the designs of divine wisdom, to be exempted from corruption, but this double prophecy, which sums up her heavenly vocation, remained intact, as a pledge of hope for those who implore her help.

How touching it was to see the two prelates and the other priests of the Commission, elite of the diocesan clergy, leaning over this poor coffin, and taking

to present them to the doctors, the smallest parcels of these dry bones. After having found them almost completely, fraternal hands were used, with what religious eagerness! to rid them of their earthy part, as one does for a precious diamond, and wrapped them successively in linen cloths of fine worked linen, tied with silk ribbons. They were then placed in a carved oak box padded with white satin.


Before the affixing of the seals of the Bishop of Bayeux and of the Municipality, the Pontiff wanted to show the assistants the lid of this pretty coffin, on which was seen, in the middle of the cross entwined with a crown of thorns in relief, the effigy of the Holy Face, and the various instruments of the Passion, as well as the crest of Carmel. The non-commissioned officer, who had spent the night near the chapel, seized this cover and, visibly moved, passed it around among the crowded ranks of the spectators. Many tears flowed as they kissed the image of the Saviour, and also the scapular of homespun mentioned. The sexton of Carmel, alone, estimates at more than 12,000 the number of objects that this believing crowd begged him to have touched, for them, the bones of the angelic Servant of God.


The casket, 1m 20 long, 40 centimeters wide and 30 centimeters high, was placed in a lead coffin lined with white cloth, and enclosed in a rosewood sarcophagus, adorned with four finely chiseled and silvered handles, and fourteen lag screws, of the same metal. This work of great value, was offered to the Carmel and to Sister Thérèse, by the Maison Henri de Borniol. On the upper part, sealed with the episcopal coat of arms, where this artistically engraved inscription could be read








[In 2008, we reintroduced into this empty casket kept in the archives the lead tube – open – which contained an attestation of the bones of TH, signed by all the participants in the exhumation, including Sr Geneviève and Sr Madeleine de Jésus.]


Although the funeral chariot was retained, the employees, in ceremonial livery, claimed the honor of carrying the coffin on their shoulders to the place of burial. Wreaths of flowers arose on all sides following the procession, which advanced majestically, under the setting sun of this beautiful summer day.

The same order and the sympathetic piety noted the day before, kept this demonstration a private character and full of a recollected calm. In order not to deprive him of this aspect, required moreover by the rules of the Church, Monsignor Lemonnier abstained from translating aloud his feelings which were those of all, and the carriers deposited their precious burden in silence, in the brick loculus, in the shadow of the white cross, covered with inscriptions and supplications.

These blessed remains are now awaiting the judgment of the Holy Church, and, until then, will they not continue to operate in mystery their beneficent action? The Gospel of August 10 gently reminds us of this in these consoling words of Jesus: “If the grain of wheat that has fallen to the ground dies, it bears much fruit. »


A few incidents, gleaned here and there during these days, contributed to make them even more moving. Such is the fact of the perfumes already mentioned, which a military chaplain, among others, perceived on Fridays, around the depository. Let us now quote this phrase collected from the mouths of many and summing up the general feeling: "No doubt, these long hours of waiting in front of a closed chapel are painful, but what does it matter, if we add by this fatigue to the glory of the little holy! And again this cry escaped a poor mother whom a gravedigger wanted to prevent from reaching a board detached from the coffin: "You can clearly see that you don't have a son in your forehead!" »

Why not also mention this exclamation from an employee of the Lisieux station, on seeing the rosewood chest: “Nothing will ever be too good for Sister Thérèse! »

When everything was over at the cemetery, Bishop Lemonnier, accompanied by the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, went to the Carmelite Monastery, where, before the assembled Community, the report of the events of August 9 and 10 was read. Then the seals were affixed to the reserves of hair or other fragments of the body of the Servant of God, and even the old coffins entrusted to the discreet custody of the nuns. From now on, it will therefore no longer be permitted to distribute these intimate souvenirs, as long as a decision of the Holy See has not attributed to them the proper character of relics, giving them the right to the worship of the faithful. Concerned, in fact, to ensure the preservation, as fully as possible, of what remains of the body of her saints, the Church, like a Mother full of prudence, recognizes herself, by this measure, as sole owner, and prohibits premature distribution.

This defense will perhaps be a matter of real sacrifices for many devotees of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, but let them remember that a simple surge of faith attracts her protection, and that to hope much from her goodness compassion is always the best way to take it by heart”.


PRINT PERMIT: Bayeux, August 15, 1917. THOMAS, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux