How Charlemagne Discovered the Relics of Saint Anne

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius the infidels invaded the Holy Land and destroyed all the monuments, public or private, together with the coffins they found entombed. One coffin, however, escaped this sacrilegious treatment. The infidel iconoclasts could neither break it open nor harm it; and in their rage they cast it into the sea. But, strange to say, although of a prodigious weight, the coffin, instead of sinking to the bottom, floated lightly upon the waves until it found a resting-place in the sands near the town of Apt, in Provence. Here it lay hidden for a long time. One day some fishermen from the town caught in their net a fish so large that they had to disembark in order to drag it to land. When they had, after tremendous efforts, got the monster on shore, he took to leaping and throwing himself about with such energy and purpose as to dig a deep hole in the beach, and thereby bring to light the buried coffin. Forthwith the people gathered and sought to open it, but again it defied all effort, and accordingly was, by the bishop’s direction, deposited in a crypt which was then walled up, a burning lamp having first been placed inside.

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charlegmagne-relics-saint-anneThe centuries slipped away uneventfully until Charlemagne came to Apt as conqueror of Provence. He took up his quarters with the Baron Cazeneuve, who had a son deaf and dumb from his birth. Charlemagne, no less renowned for his Christian faith than for his martial prowess, ordered a purification of the church, which had, through the neglect of the people, become the abode of the owls and the bats. On the day appointed, all Provence assembled for the ceremony. In the very midst of the solemnities the deaf-mute, forcing his way through the throng, indicated to Charlemagne, by eager gesticulations, that he should cause a certain ancient wall to be torn down. Charlemagne not only gave orders accordingly, but with his kingly hands assisted in the work. The long forgotten crypt was opened, and there, still burning brightly, stood the lamp lit many centuries before. The first to enter the crypt was young Cazeneuve, and scarcely had he set foot within it, when he cried with a loud voice that filled the whole neighborhood : “In this sacred place reposes the body of the thrice glorious Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary.” The king, accompanied by the archbishop, then went down into the crypt, and after having made obeisance, opened the coffin without any difficulty, finding therein a perfect body…

It was found in a coffer of cypress-wood wrapped in a rich winding-sheet on which the following words were inscribed: Hic est corpus Beatae Annae, matris Virginis Mariae; “Here rests the body of Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary.”

Charlemagne had the exact relation of the prodigy drawn up and sent it to Pope Adrian I, who, in his answer to the monarch, recommended to preserve the holy relics with due veneration.

Source: Annals of Sainte Anne de Beaupre. (1888). Updated, 27 August, 2022