Abridged history of the Order of the Virgin Mary (Annunciade)


Jeanne of France died on February the 4th 1505 leaving the Franciscan Father Gabriel-Maria the duty of watching over the Annunciade.  From 1505 to 1532 (the year of his death) he saw the opening of eight convents of the Order of the Virgin Mary.

The wars of religion (end of the 16th century)  put a brake on the extension of the Order, which picked up again in the  17th century in the midst of the period of catholic counter reform.  From 1610, following the instructions of the Church, the Provincial Franciscans of France, especially Pierre Boiteux (1619-1622)andJacquesLafroigne1622-1626) sought to reform the grey sisters (hospital tertiaries)  in making them take solemn vows and putting them in cloisters.  A dozen of Annunciade Convents were thus made up of grey sisters.  This Franciscan movement took place in the larger context originating from the Council of Trent, seeking to extend to all religious the conditions taken for enclosed orders only.

From 1600 to 1650, 42 Annunciade convents saw the light of day.  In the second half of the century three convents were founded in Germany.

In the 18th century, religious vocations declined everywhere.  For the convents, that was the period of reconstruction, renovations and repairs.  This century saw the beatification of Jeanne of France (1742).  At the time of the Revolution of 1789, the Order comprised 54 convents spread throughout France, Belgium, the Low Countries and Germany.  Within a few years more than 1000 Annunciades were scattered.  Many were exiled, imprisoned.  Some paid with their life.

After that torment, the Convent of Villeneuve-sur-Lot was restored (1816).  In 1819, some Annunciades got together  and restarted a community in Boulogne-sur-mer but that was on condition that they took up teaching.

In 1903: the law separated Church and State.  For the Boulogne Convent that meant exile in England (1905).  Twenty years later, four Annunciades attempted the return to France, which succeeded in 1926 at Thiais (Val de Marne).  In 1976, the English convent joined up with Thiais.

In Belgium, contemplative Orders were suppressed in 1784.  To prevent being split up, the Annunciades of Tirlemont opened a school.  During  the 19th  century, the community founded  two  convents. After the Second World War, vocations  became rare.   In 1965,  the three Belgium convents joined together  first at Merksem, then at  Westmalle (1970). 

Today, the Order of the Virgin Mary comprises six convents in  France: Villeneuve-sur-Lot  (Lot et Garonne);Thiais(Val de Marne); Brucourt (Calvados); Peyruis (Alpes de Haute Provence); Saint Doulchard (Cher); Menton (Alpes Maritimes).  The last four (Brucourt, Peyruis,  Saint Doulchard and Menton) being founded from Thiais.

And one convent in Belgium: Westmalle.

Right from the start of the Order, Jeanne of France sought to offer each member the possibility of sharing -  in the state of life which was her own – the evangelical and marial spirituality of the Annunciade.  Nowadays, that sharing is offered to anyone – young and less young –in union with the Order’s Convents by means of the Fraternity.

In this way, the Order of the Virgin Mary  discretely  pursues its mission at the heart of the Church and of the world.