The Octave is one of Luxembourg's major annual religious celebrations. It takes starts on the 3rd Sunday after Easter and closes with the Octave Procession on the 5th Sunday after Easter. It honours Our Lady of Luxembourg, Maria Mutter Jesu, Consolatrix Afflictorum, Patrona Civitatis et Patriae Luxemburgensis.
The political, social and religious environment at the beginning of the Octave was characterised by the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and the years of the Plague (1626-1636): two thirds of the population died of the latter. This time of crisis was marked by war and famine.
At the same time, the Jesuit mission had a clear goal: through an attractive popular religiousness, the Catholic faith should be strengthened in the spirit of the Counter-Reformation of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), to prevent the spread of Protestantism.
- 1 October 1603: The Jesuite college was founded in Luxembourg city
- 1613-1621: The Jesuit church was built (Notre-Dame Cathedral since 1870)
- 8 December 1624: Students from the Jesuit college carried a wooden, 73 cm high statue of the Virgin Mary in front of the city walls on the Glacis. Father Jacques Brocquart S.J. was the initiator of this pilgrimage, and gave the statue the title of Consolatrix Afflictorum (Comforter of the Afflicted)
- 1625-1628: The pilgrim's chapel was built on the Glacis, to be enlarged in 1640, and reconsecrated in 1642
- 10 May 1666: Mary, Mother of Jesus, Comforter of the Afflicted, was elected the patroness of the city of Luxembourg
- 20 February 1678: The Comforter of the Afflicted was elected patroness of the Duchy of Luxembourg and of the County of Chiny
- 1766: First centenary: The cast-iron votive altar from the smithy of Orval Abbey was a gift from the people to their patroness
- 1778: The Jesuit church became the parish church, after the Jesuit order was dissolved by Pope Clement XIV in 1773, and the old parish church (St. Nicholas' church) had become decrepit
- 1796: The pilgrims' chapel on the Glacis was destroyed by French Revolutionary troops. Since then the statue has been in the cathedral.
- 1866: For the second centenary, the statue was ceremonially crowned with permission of Pope Pius IX
- 1870: Luxembourg became a bishopric, and the old Jesuit church became the cathedral
- 1921: Bishop Pierre Nommesch decided to make up for the 250th anniversary of the election of the patroness with a peace and anniversary Octave, since the celebrations had not taken place in 1916 due to World War I (and because Bishop Jean Joseph Koppes had been gravely ill). He also doubled the length of the Octave, as one week was no longer enough to accommodate all parishes and associations.
- 1978: For the third centenary of the election as patroness of the country, the Fondation du Tricentenaire was founded.
Election of Mary as patroness
The text of the election act of Mary as patroness of the country on 20 February 1678 was as follows:
Sainte Marie mere de JESUS Consolatrice des affliges, nous les trois Estats du Pays Dûche de Luxembourg et Comte de Chiny avec tous les habitans du Pays Vous choisisons aujourdhuy e mes nom et celuy de nos successeurs pour dame et patrone perpetuele de toute la Province, et professions fermement de vous honorer toujours pour tele. Cepourquoy nous vous supplions tres humblement de nous recevoir en vostre protection et de nous assister au temps de guerre, peste et famine et en toutes nos necessites et duersites. Amen
"Holy Mary, mother of Jesus, Comforter of the afflicted, we the three Estates of the Country Duchy of Luxembourg and County of Chiny with all the inhabitants of the Country choose You in our names and those of our successors, as lady and patroness perpetual of all the Province, and profess firmly to honour always. That is why we beg you very humbly to take us into your protection and to assist us in time of war, pestilence and famine and in all our needs and varieties. Amen."
The text was signed in the Jesuit church by the three estates (clergy, nobility and citizens of the towns), and by the magistrates of the 15 cities and the three "Franchises" of the Duchy of Luxembourg.
Thus the Virgin Mary Octave took on a national character. In World War II, it also took on a patriotic meaning, and to this day belongs to the religious identity of Luxembourg.