Miracle or “Miracle”?

Raymond Jonas

in The Tragic Tale of Claire Ferchaud and the Great War

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780520242975
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520938281 | DOI:
Miracle or “Miracle”?

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This chapter discusses the opening of war in 1914. It particularly focuses on the experience of France as it was threatened by the invasion of Germany. With the German troops rapidly reaching the French capital and with the inability of France to halt the German advance pouring in from Belgium, French troops and their allies retreated to Marne. Parisians fled from the city, so did the government. In Montmartre, a different assembly was taking place. Amidst the fearful sound of the looming war, Parisians gathered in prayer. As they prayed, the German offensive stalled. An Allied counterattack to the north behind the offensive force of Alexander von Kluck threatened the line of communication of the German offensive force, forcing them to retreat to a more defensible position. Paris' capitulation had been spared. For French republicans, Marne was like Valmy, where the French Revolution was saved “miraculously”. From a secular republican point of view, the “the miracle of the Marne” of September 1914 was akin to a metaphorical “miracle”. For many Catholics however, the incident of Marne was not a sacred metaphor, rather it was simply a miracle. While they believed that the prayers alone did not stop the advancement of the German troops, they nevertheless acknowledged that it had made a difference. For many of the Catholics, the miracle of Marne was not only France's victory over Germany but also a victory over despair and irreligion, since France especially during this period was undergoing secularization and de-Christianization. For them, it was a triumph of the Christian France.

Keywords: France; Marne; miracle of Marne; Germany; irreligion; Christian France

Chapter.  1973 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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