A Day in Graves with St Jeanne de Lestonnac

Chateau Landiras tribute wine for St Jeanne de Lestonnac

It was a beautiful day as good as any early spring day could be in Bordeaux. We were en route to Sauternes and Graves and had an opportunity to add a tasting before most of the local chateaus rolled up their doors before the 5 o’clock hour.

Several inquiries went to voicemail until we reached a delightful voice, “yes, of course I will wait for you.” We were 10 minutes away from the Village of Landiras. Coordinates were set and we were on our way to Chateau Landiras.

Upon arrival to the grounds we were greeted by a handful of children keen to show us their perfected cartwheels among the lawns between farm buildings and trees. A worker spoke to us in Spanish of the ruins on the grounds from an old castle and the vision of the Virgin Mary that was marked “en la Mesa” through the trees. The children played with our dog. We wondered if we had arrived in the right place when Stephanie emerged from the farm office and waived at us. We proceeded to greet here and confirmed our appointment.

The ruins of the original castle marking the site of a vision of Mary

Stephanie explained the origins of the original grounds and that several pilgrims venture to the area each year to study and pay homage to the area. As we began our tasting flight of their very well crafted, “smart buy” wines we noticed a label different from the rest. The crest looked familiar as did the name and so we inquired having seen similar markings at a local school to our homestay in California.

The day, the wine, the people – all brought together by the guiding hand of benevolence.

“Oh yes, the wine is to honor St Jeanne de Lestonnac. She was famous for bringing education to young women and girls. In her time very revolutionary.” We stopped and looked at each other. she had lived with her husband and family on these very grounds in the ancient castle. Was it possible that we had somehow found ourselves in the original location of the Saint herself as well on her very feast day celebrating her canonization in 1949?

Indeed we had. Nothing was left to chance. The day, the wine, the people – all brought together by the guiding hand of benevolence.

Born in Bordeaux in 1556, Jeanne de Lestonnac, O.D.N., was a Roman Catholic saint and foundress of the Sisters of the Company of Mary, Our Lady, in 1607. The new institute, approved by Paul V in 1607, was the first religious order of women-teachers approved by the Church. (Wikipedia).

Following her husband’s death, St. Jeanne De Lestonnac, at the age of 46, and with her children now grown, turned to a contemplative life and entered the  Cistercian Monastery in Toulouse. After illness forced her retreat to convalescence and well-being, she met with fellow Jesuits of her brother who encouraged her to consider teaching young women and girls in the same manner as the Jesuits were instructing boys (Wikipedia).

The Order has scores of churches around the world and one just happens to be in our neighborhood in Southern California. The first graduating class dedicated a mural at our local school to their patron saint in 2000, and its presence is an unmistakable landmark at the edge of the Temecula Valley wine country.

Present residence of Chateau Landiras

And the day: May 15. Exactly 70 years after the feast day of St Jeanne de Lestonnac was declared by Pope Pius XII.

We finished our tasting and toasted the feast day saint. Our walk about the grounds with the children – still demonstrating their perfected cartwheels and enjoying the company of our dog – took on new meaning. As nothing is left to chance we had connected with St Jeanne de Lestonnac in ways that won’t soon be forgotten.


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