Here is our itinerary:

Monday, Oct. 16 - depart Boston at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 17 - arrive in Paris at 6:15 a.m.!
Even though we'll be bleary eyed(!), we will have a half day guided tour of the city, including all the famous sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc du Triomphe, and the Cahmps-Elysees.

Wednesday, Oct. 18 - Paris/Chartres
We will travel by bus about 50 miles from Paris to Chartres, where we will visit the famous Cathedral of Chartres (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres), widely considered to be the finest gothic cathedral in France. Its historical and cultural importance is recognized by its inclusion on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

According to legend, since 876 the Cathedral has housed a tunic that had belonged to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sancta Camisia. The relic had supposedly been given to the Cathedral by Charlemagne who received it as a gift during a crusade in Jerusalem. In fact, the relic was a gift from Charles the Bald and it has been asserted that the fabric came from Syria and that it had been woven during the first century AD. For hundreds of years, Chartres has been a very important Marian pilgrimage center and today the faithful still come from the world over to honour the relic.

Chartres is a cathedral that inspires superlatives, and there are few architectural historians who have not waxed lyrical about its soaring aisles and delicate carving. These tributes are richly deserved, for Chartres is truly one of the greatest of all French Gothic cathedrals. From a distance it seems to hover in mid-air above waving fields of wheat, and it is only when the visitor draws closer that the city comes into view, clustering around the hill on which the cathedral stands. Its two contrasting spires — one, a 349 ft. plain pyramid dating from the 1140s, and the other a 377 ft. tall early 16th century Flamboyant spire on top of an older tower — soar upwards over the pale green roof, while all around the outside are complex flying buttresses.

Construction was begun in 1145, but a fire in 1194 destroyed all but the west front of the cathedral (and much of the town), so that part is in the "early Gothic" style. The body of the cathedral was rebuilt between 1194 and 1220, a remarkably short span for medieval cathedrals. It has a ground area of 117,058 square feet.

The abbey church of St Pierre, dating chiefly from the 13th century, contains, besides some fine stained glass, twelve representations of the apostles in enamel, executed about 1547 by Léonard Limosin.

Even the elegance of the exterior does not prepare the visitor for the wonders that lie within. The spacious nave stands 121 feet high, and there is an unbroken view from the western end right along to the magnificent dome of the apse in the east. Clustered columns rise dramatically from plain bases to the high pointed arches of the ceiling, directing the eye to the massive clerestory windows in the apse.

Everywhere vivid colour splashes on to the floor from the superb stained glass windows. Dating from the early 13th century, the glass largely escaped harm during the religious wars of the 16th century; it is said to constitute one of the most complete collections of medieval stained glass in the world, despite “modernization” in 1753 when some of it was removed by the clearly well-intentioned but misguided clergy. From the original 186 stained-glass windows, 152 have survived. The stained glass windows are particularly renowned for their vivid blue colour, especially a representation of the Madonna and Child. They also present the first European wheelbarrow [1]. During the second World War, most of the stained glass was removed from the cathedral, and stored in the surrounding countryside, for protection from German bombers. At the close of the war, the windows were taken out of hiding and replaced.

Several of the windows were donated by royalty, such as the rose window at the north transept, which was donated by the French queen Blanche of Castile. Windows were also donated from all types of people, from kings, lords to locals and tradespeople. The royal influence is shown in some of the long rectangular lancet windows which display the royal symbols of the yellow fleurs-de-lis on a blue background and also yellow castles on a red background.

On the doors and porches medieval carvings of statues holding swords, crosses, books and trade tools parade around the portals, their expressions as clear today as when first carved 700 years ago. The sculptures on the west façade depict Christ's ascension into heaven, episode from his life, saints, apostles, Christ in the lap of Mary and other religious scenes. Below the religious figures are statues of kings and queens, which is the reason why this entrance is known as the 'royal' portal. While these figures are based on figures from the Old Testament, they were also regarded as images of current kings and queens when they were constructed. The symbolism of showing royalty displayed slightly lower than the religious sculptures, but still very close, implies the relationship between the kings and God. It is a way of displaying the authority of royalty, showing them so close to figures of Christ, it gives the impression they have been ordained and put in place by God. Sculptures of the Seven Liberal Arts appeared in the archivolt of the right bay of the Royal Portal, which represented the school at Chartres.

Thursday, Oct. 19 - Paris
Today we will visit several important sites in Paris: Notre Dame Cathedral, the Memorial a la Deportation; The Sorbonne (alma mater to our own Sr. Eleanor!!!), Pantheon, Sainte Chapelle, Montmartre, and Sacre Coeur Basilica.

Friday, Oct. 20 - Paris
Today we will visit the Quai d'Orsay, Place Concorde, and the Shrine of St. Catherine Laboure. The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, France, is the chapel where Roman Catholics believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Catherine Labouré in 1830 and requested the creation of the medal which came to be known as the Miraculous Medal. It is also the mother house of the Daughters of Charity. The chapel, as a site of Marian apparition, is a Marian shrine and hence a site of heavy Roman Catholic pilgrimage.

The bodies of Saint Catherine Labouré and Saint Vincent de Paul, founder of the Sisters of Charity, are kept there.

In 1830 Saint Catherine Labouré, then 24, received three visits from the Blessed Virgin Mary, "in flesh and bones," she will say, to request the creation of a medal with the following invocation: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." From May 1832 onwards the medal, which is extraordinarily disseminated and is said to convert, protect and perform miracles, is called miraculous by the faithful.

Only the tabernacle, which dates back to the seventeenth or eighteenth century, is unchanged since 1815; it comes from the building allocated in 1800 to the Daughters of Charity. It was then to be found in the chapel of the Sisters of Mercy installed there before the French Revolution. Saint Catherine Labouré said that it is in front of the tabernacle that the Blessed Virgin Mary prostrated in the night of July 18 to July 19, 1830 and above it that she was during the third apparition in December 1830. In 1850 an ivory crucifix was placed on top of it.

In 1849 the chapel is expanded and in the following years it will know many other transformations. Since 1930, the date of its complete renovation, the chapel is as we know it today.

Saturday, Oct. 21 - Paris to Lyon
We are taking the high speed train from the Gare du Nord, to Lyon, which is where the SSJ congregation was refounded after the French revolution. We will be met by Sr. Marie du St. Esprit, an SSJ from Mexico and a member of the Lyon congregation. She will be our guide to the city, including visits to the Basilique de Fourviere.

Sunday, Oct. 22 - Lyon/Annecy
Tour of Annecy with Sister Leonie SSJ (who is from India) of the Annecy congregation. We will visit Saint Francois Church, tombs, and convent.

Monday, Oct. 23 - Lyon to Le-Puy-en-Velay.
We will be met by Sr. Jacqueline SSJ from the Le Puy congregation for a tour of the town, which is the birthplace of the SSJs. We will visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Statue of Our Lady of France, and the chapel of St. Michel.

Tuesday, Oct. 24 - Le Puy to Paris and a farewell dinner.

Wednesday, Oct. 25 - leave Paris at 1:15 p.m.
we will arrive back in Boston at 3 p.m.

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