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ALSACAT:

ALSACAT is my comprehensive catalog of UFO sighting reports in Alsace, the region is the North-East of France, whether they are "explained" or "unexplained".

The ALSACAT catalog is made of case files with a case number, summary, quantitative information (date, location, number of witnesses...), classifications, all sources mentioning the case with their references, a discussion of the case in order to evaluate its causes, and a history of the changes made to the file. A general index and thematic sub-catalogs give access to these Alsatian case files.

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Case of Les Trois-Epis, on May 3, 1491:

Case number:

ALSACAT-1491-05-03-TROISEPIS-1

Summary:

In the collective book "Mystérieuses Soucoupes Volantes" of the ufology group "Lumières Dans La Nuit", published in 1973 under the direction of the ufologist Fernand Lagarde, some "old" cases are noted, presented without making any broad assertions, and very summarily otherwise - generally without any detail.

It is said that a "dazzling light appeared to the blacksmith of Orbey, and in the middle, the Virgin...."

No date was given; but "as everyone knows", this well-known alleged apparition of the "Blessed Virgin", object of pilgrimages at Les Trois-Epis, dates from May 3, 1491.

In this dossier I summarize the "non-ufological" account of the event and question the relevance of having included it in a book about the "flying saucers".

Data:

Temporal data:

Date: May 3, 1491
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Duration: ?
First known report date: May 3, 1491
Reporting delay: Hour. hours.

Geographical data:

Department: Haut-Rhin
City: Orbey
Place: At the foot of an oak bearing a pious image.
Latitude: 48.126
Longitude: 7.158
Uncertainty radius: 2 km.

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 1
Number of known witnesses: 1
Number of named witnesses: 1
Witness(es) ages: Adult.
Witness(es) types: Local blacksmith.

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: ?
Type of location: In country at the foot of an oak bearing a pious image.
Visibility conditions: Day.
UFO observed: Yes.
UFO arrival observed: ?
UFO departure observed: ?
Entities: Yes.
Photographs: No.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): No.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): No.
Witness(es) feelings: Invested with a religious mission.
Witnesses interpretation: The "Blessed Virgin."

Classifications:

Hynek: CE4
ALSACAT: ?

Sources:

[Ref. fle1:] FERNAND LAGARDE - LUMIERES DANS LA NUIT GROUP:

Scan.

Trois-Epis (Guide, p. 731).

Near there, observations in Labaroche, Grand-Honach, etc. A dazzling light appeared to the black-smith of Orbey, and in the middle, the Blessed Virgin...

The author or authors indicated that the source is Guide de la France religieuse et mystique by Maurice Colignon [sic, Maurice Colinon], Tchou publisher.

[Ref. evd1:] ERIC VON DANIKEN:

At some time in the fourteenth century, the exact date is unknown, a mower gave himself a fatal wound with his scythe near Trois-Epis in Upper Alsace, France. In memory of his tragic death the local farmers nailed a crucifix to an oak tree and called the scene of the accident 'A l'homme mort'. On 3rd May, 1491, the blacksmith, Dieter Schore, a sturdy man with no nonsense about him, was riding past it when the figure of a lady in a white robe and wearing a veil appeared to him. In one hand she held an icicle, in the other three ears of corn. She told the bewildered smith that because of the sins and vices of the local people Almighty God would send terrible diseases, heavy rain and frost to punish them if they did not repent and do penance. But the lady said that the ears of corn were a symbol of blessing and good harvests which God would grant through her intercession.

The blacksmith did not attach much importance to the phantom: he wasn't going to breathe a word of it to the villagers of Niedennorschweiher. But then it happened! He bought a sack of corn in the market, but although he was helped by some stalwart labourers he could not lift it on to his horse's back, for the sack got heavier and heavier. Then blacksmith Schore, as we can understand, bowed to God's power and told the people about his vision. The priests understood at once and summoned the faithful to form a procession to the spot known as 'A l'homme mort'. The fine lady usually had a firm hand on the pulse of her flock. Anyone who promises farmers a good harvest has won the battle already.

Trois-Epis is a well-known place of pilgrimage in Alsace. (5)

(5) J. ACKERMANN, Der fromme Wallfarhter noch drei Aehren, Colmar, 1856.

[Ref. fgs1:] "FRANCOIS GARDES":

The author indicates that he thinks that sightings which had been interpreted in "a mystical sense" could be studied systematically taking into account contemporary UFO sightings; he cites examples, including "Les Trois-Epis", indicating that it is "impossible to approach in a few lines a saucerian explanation" of such appearances, that "scholarly works have tried to explain everything, even the inexplicable and the divine." He invites us to reject "purely parapsychic causes" and the "hazardous interventions of a driving God who, until now, it being said without the intention of offending anyone, has only manifested itself inexplicably."

Discussion:

Map.

One may wonder why an alleged "appearance of the Blessed Virgin" appears in a ufology catalog.

I wonder about that myself. But since at least one source believes that this story is part of ufology, whatever the reason is, I also have to deal with it, to assess the meaning this "appearance the Blessed Virgin" case might have in connection with ufology, I need to see what this is all about before I can deny or accept the relevance of the story to ufology.

A part of the ufologists, usually those who consider the idea of extraterrestrial visitors false or stupid, blame others who do not agree to "ignore" or "silence" a range of "phenomena", such as the "apparitions of the Blessed Virgin." They consider that such events teach something to ufologists and that ignoring them is a methodological error, or a form of "closed mindedness" or even "stupidity".

So, they are wrong here, as I did not "reject" the matter without consideration, on the contrary, I looked for the best possible documentation on the case so that I can make a thoughtful assessment about it; and it is only after doing this that I state whether this case teaches something useful in ufology.

I should explain briefly to the possibly ufologically "novice" reader, the reasoning that some ufologists give to justify that a "Blessed Virgin appearance" would indeed be relevant to ufology. Many reasons are put forth, some of which are contradictory with the others. But they exist:

These are, in short, why visions of the "Blessed Virgin" are sometimes found in UFO literature.

The alleged events at Les Trois-Epis:

There are a plethora of non-ufological sources relating to the alleged events.

In summary, it is said that on May 3, 1491, the "Blessed Virgin" appeared to Thierry Schoeré, a blacksmith from Orbey in the Haut-Rhin.

It is said that he went to the Niedermorschwihr market to buy grain. Along the way, around 10 a.m., at a place called "Habtal" ("Valley of the Sparrowhawk"), he stopped to pray at the foot of an oak tree where in 1465 a pious image had been set after the tragic accident of a peasant who was seriously injured with his scythe and died, the place then becoming known as "the place of the dead man."

There, he then, allegedly, suddenly saw a bright light in the center of which he allegedly distinguished the "Blessed Virgin", dressed in white, holding in her right hand three ears of wheat mounted on a single stalk, and in the other, an ice cube.

(Other sources say that he was "dazzled by a brilliant ray of light", in the middle of which "appeared a delicate and vaporous form", namely the "Virgin Mary", "clad in long transparent white veils.")

The "Blessed Virgin", rather brutal it seems, reportedly explained to him that the ice cube represents the misfortunes that would fall on the region, namely hail, frost, floods, famines and other calamities, if the disbelieving inhabitants would not consent to convert and "atone for their sins."

The ears of corn, on the contrary, would symbolize the benefits that "God" would be ready to bestow on those who convert.

The "Blessed Virgin" then allegedly asked the blacksmith to hasten to tell the inhabitants that they must change their lives and come in procession to the scene.

Once he arrived at the market, Thierry Schoeré wanted to publicize this call for conversion, but did not dare to speak. The "Blessed Virgin" then allegedly sent him a sign: the bag of wheat that he wanted to load on his mount became so heavy that he was unable to lift it. A crowd gathered, people tried in vain to lift the bag, and soon people began to accuse the unfortunate blacksmith of witchcraft. This decided him to pass the "message"; whereupon he was able to lift the sack of wheat.

As early as the summer of 1491, a wooden chapel was built, then a larger one in 1493, consecrated in 1495, crowds flocked and many miracles were alleged there. We find the Chapel of the Apparition, 18 rue Thierry Schoeré built in the years 1952 to 1956. In 1967, a church was built.

The apparition gave its name to the hamlet Les Trois-Épis, shared between the municipalities of Ammerschwihr, Turckheim and Niedermorschwihr, about ten kilometers from Colmar.

Evaluation:

Probable legend, not UFO-related.

Sources references:

* = Source is available to me.
? = Source I am told about but could not get so far. Help needed.

File history:

Authoring:

Main author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross January 21, 2023 Creation, [fle1], [evd1].
1.0 Patrick Gross January 21, 2023 First published.
1.1 Patrick Gross February 3, 2023 Addition [fgs1].

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This page was last updated on February 3, 2023.