Festival of Saint Nicolas
Whit Monday ~ the Monday after Pentecost
A majestic church, the Basilica of Saint Nicolas, towers over the town, completely dominating the scene as one comes into St. Nicolas-de-Port in France. St. Nicolas is the much beloved patron saint of all of Lorraine. The church's prominence attests to the regard the people of Lorraine have for their saint. Each year on Whit Monday, the Monday following Pentecost Sunday, the people of St. Nicolas-de-Port gather in the basilica at 3:30 in the afternoon to pay homage to St. Nicolas. This festival Eucharist takes place with clouds of incense, fine music, and much pageantry. Everyone present, young and old, men and women, joins in joyfully singing as the great procession winds around and through the magnificent church.
Saint Nicolas, ton crédit d'age en age,
a fait pleuvoir tes bienfaits souverains.
Viens, couvre encor' de ton doux patronage
tes vieux amis les enfants des Lorrains!
[Saint Nicolas, from age to age your favor
has rained down supreme blessings.
Come with your gentle protection to cover still
your old friends, the children of Lorraine.]
Some wear 13th century costumes to represent the story of a Crusader, the Duke of Rechicourt. On December 5, 1240, while praying in his Turkish prison cell, it is said that he was miraculously transported from prison and set down at the entrance to the church of Saint-Nicholas-de-Port. He was still in chains. Boys and girls in heavy velvet and adults bearing Saint Nicolas relics, heavy shackles and stunning embroidered banners of the saint, move through the nave. As they pass, the whole congregation leaves their seats to join the festive procession. All the while "Saint Nicolas, ton credit d'age en age . . . " rings out in refrain within a powerful litany. After the mass the faithful line up at several chapels to be anointed with the manna of St. Nicolas from the basilica in Bari, Italy.
A pilgrim's first-person report
More images from Saint-Nicolas-de-Port
December festival in Saint-Nicolas-de-Port
Paroisse Saint Nicolas en Lorraine, site for the Basilica and Parish
Association Connaissance et Renaissance de la basilique de Saint-Nicolas-de-Port