The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/34 – Dijon in France

In 1513, the town of Dijon in France was miraculously delivered from the Swiss and Germanic armies following the inhabitants’ fervent appeals to the ‘Black Virgin, Our Lady of Good Hope.’ Dijon is the ancient City of the Dukes of Burgandy. The Governor Louis of the Tremoille had just returned to Dijon from a campaign in Italy against the Novarre. King Louis XII warned him, that an attack on the town of Dijon, by Swiss forces, was precipitously imminent. Although the arsenal at Dijon was well stocked with arrows and weapons, the gunpowder was scarce and the cannons needed repair. The fortified walls were of an earlier age but could seriously contend with the offenders, twenty-one towers studded its periphery, upon which were placed catapults and crossbowmen. In all at its disposal, Dijon had a force of 5,000-6,000 defenders. To prevent any advantage to the enemy, the suburbs around the city were destroyed by fire.

The German Emperor and the Swiss succeeded at assembling a force, totaling 45,000 combatants. The army was marshaled in August and marched for Burgandy. Certain men joined just for the looting of the French towns and monasteries. The prime objective was Paris, but Burgandy was to be captured first. Columns of wagons were pulled to bring back the loot; Fontaine-Francaise, Lux, Til-Chatel, Marcy, Mirabeau were plundered. The Monastery of Beze was not spared and graves were desecrated, dug up for treasure. On September 8, the solemnity of Our Lady’s Nativity, the army arrived at Dijon; the city with its ten-meter high wall, lay before them. The invading army surrounded the city such that wherever they gazed, the defenders saw a vast sea of shining armor. On September 9, German and Swiss cannons pounded both the city walls and the inner city itself. The besieged were terrorized, surprisingly, there were no fatalities recorded at this stage. Where breaches appeared in the walls, the Governor of Dijon, ordered large ditches to be dug in preparation for the invading enemy forces. As the first attack did little effect and did not even cause a fire in the city, on September 10, the attackers were preparing for a second deadlier assault. At this point Louis dispatched a messenger to the enemy, to initiate a parley on a cease-fire. The attackers ignored this initial request and proceeded with their onslaught.

The defenders fought back and inflicted casualties among the German and Swiss troops. On September 11, a Sunday morning, the inhabitants celebrated solemn Mass and organized a procession with Our Lady’s Icon. The procession began from the Place de Notre-Dame, through Owl Street and through the rest of Dijon and finally back to the chapel. The ‘Black Virgin,’ was devoutly carried and the inhabitants implored the Mother of God to intercede and spare her children from their enemies. Maintaining an army of forty-thousand men has its limitations, the supplies of the enemy were running low. This was a large problem as the original objective was Paris and such a situation at Dijon, ruled out their march on to the French Capital. In addition, the Swiss soldiers had not as yet received their pay from the German Emperor. These matters caused obvious friction between the German faction and the Swiss. The Germans attempted at negotiating, but were unable to satisfy the Swiss. Louis of the Tremoille perceived their dissatisfaction and immediately sought to negotiate with them. While the talks for a treaty with the Swiss proceeded steadily, he ignored the German advances. The Germans tried to dissuade the Swiss from a parley with the French, but failed,.

In a last attempt, the Germans breached through the walls and to their dismay found the ditches which had been excavated earlier. The enemy acknowledged that this physical obstacle impeded the city from being conquered. On September 12 the Governor of Dijon, on behalf of Louis XII, sealed a treaty between the French and the Swiss. The treaty consisted of twelve articles. The first article demanded the King of France to return Papal land in Italy to the Pope. The third article ceded the Dutchy of Milan and Asti to the Swiss. The fifth article dealt with a ransom of 400,000 Francs to Zurich. The seventh article dealt with the repayment of certain debts by the French Crown to the Swiss. The inhabitants collected a stipulated amount of money and on September 13, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the time when the Lord died on the cross, the hour of Mercy, the Treaty was signed. The Swiss army departed on the fourteenth and the Germans the following day.

Five hostages from Dijon were kept at the dungeons in Zurich, their release would have occurred when the French King transferred the promised funds. However, Louis XII did not transfer such funds as the Governor of Dijon had pledged in the Treaty, and the Swiss immediately assembled an army of twenty-thousand men to attack once again the French city. Louis XII dispatched a messenger to negotiate, however the Swiss would not accept other negotiations apart from what was agreed at the Treaty. In October the hostages, who were scheduled for decapitation, were released against ransom money, which in all totaled fourteen-thousand francs. On January 1, Louis XII died during his wedding festivities and following a military engagement in Italy led by the French King Francis I, the conflict came to a close.

Four hundred and thirty one years following the Swiss and German invasion at Dijon, the inhabitants of the town prayed once again to Our Lady to spare the city from Nazi occupation. On September 11, 1944 the German army, unexpectedly evacuated the city. In the chapel where the Black Virgin resides, the following prayer is recited: “Holy Virgin, Compassionate Mother, you who protected our knights of old and who delivered our city from enemy attacks, you maintained our ancestors in their times of trouble… Our Lady of Good Hope, pray for us.” On both occasions, Our Lady spared Dijon in the proximity of her Feasts falling on September 8, September 12 and September 15, dedicated to her Nativity, her Holy Name and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.




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