Lace in Lisieux

Lace in Lisieux

Lisieux, France, the home of St Therese, was certainly a spiritual pilgrimage but also a lace pilgrimage. A little backstory….St Therese, the little flower is a Saint and Doctor of the church. She was born in 1873 and died of Tuberculosis in 1897, at the age of 24; she was a Carmelite nun from the age of 15.Those of you who have never heard of her, might have seen her picture with a bouquet of roses. Therese lived and grew up with her family in Lisieux, France. Zelie Martin, her mother was a lacemaker. I am a lace maker!

The family home in Alencon was filled with reminders of Zelie and her lace. Zelie learned lace from the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration where she attended school. At a lace atelier in Alencon, Zelie probably met the mother of her future husband; some things, women chatting over handwork, never change whatever the century! After her marriage, being socially minded and concerned for the poor, she created an atelier herself for women to make lace in their homes. Her husband managed the selling of the lace, taking orders from as far away as Paris. The women then filled the orders; Zelie kept the most difficult assemblage for herself. Also, Zelie received a medal for her own high quality lace making from the Halle des Toiles in Paris.

The home of the Martins in Alencon has two large pieces of Alencon lace (no pictures allowed). The museum at the entrance was filled with delicate doll clothes edged with lace (Zelie had five daughters )and collars that had in fact been made by Zelie and there was also an extensive and informative display on the making of Alencon lace. In the most famous picture of Zelie and her husband, she is wearing a lace collar. She must have been quite a businesswoman.

In Lisieux, there is a grand Basilica dedicated to St Therese, Zelie’s youngest daughter. There are eighteen side altars and every one had an altarcloth with a lace border albeit different styles. It was off season in Lisieux, so the Basilica was quiet and peaceful, for prayer of course, but also much lace photo taking!

This lacemaker had a very happy time with the Lace in Lisieux.

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