The historical context of the miracle of 1479.
Poperinge had received in 1147 a by-law from Diederik of the Elzas, the beginning of a blooming period. Even better, Poperinge was in the 13th century the third biggest cloth trading town of Flanders, after Bruges and Ypres.
The town was in full expansion. Therefore, two new churches could be built next to the St-Bertin’s Church, namely the Church of Our Lady and St-Johns’s.
Even in the 14th century, a statue of Mary was worshipped in the church of St-Johns. After the golden thirteenth century, Poperinge experienced a dark period. Due to the 100-years’ war between France and England, Flanders was put into a difficult position. It was fief of the French king but needed the English wool fir its cloth trade. Jacob van Artevelde succeeded into obtaining privileges for Ghent, Bruges and Ypres. Lodewijk of Nevers claimed a law in 1322, by which no wool could be woven in an area of three hours around Ypres, and this meant the final stabbing for Poperinge.
Weavers of Poperinge disobeyed the prohibition, penalties were executed, many looms disappeared. One bloody fight resulted into the other. Several peace treaties were signed but it never took long before the next battle started. Poperinge mostly lost the battle and hence, trade and industry were almost completely destroyed. Moreover, the town suffered from the English-French battle. In these dark ages, the population of Poperinge had not lost faith in Our Lady of St John. On the contrary, due to mischief (potato plague, pestilence) more and more inhabitants of Poperinge found comfort in Mary. In those days, the miracle with the still-born child who came to life again, happened. It was baptised and died shortly afterwards. In those religious Middle Ages, a child who was not baptised could impossibly go to heaven. From its first sign of life, a child was baptised. This happened often near a statue of Mary. In Poperinge, the circumstances were very special. Many citizens were present when the arisen child was baptised. The clergy could not be indifferent to this fact : the honoration of Mary grew. Father Jacob du Val, priest in Poperinge, introduced the case to abbot Johan de Lannoy who talked about it to bishop Terenburg of Terwaan (nowadays this is the French-Flemish village Therouanne at 11 km from St.-Omer). Grand vicar Johannes Monyssart was put in charge with the ecclesiastical investigation. On June 12th 1481 an elaborate charter was drawn up, in which the miracle is described and found true. Out of this charter written in Latin follows here the translation of the most important parts: in the year 1480, March 12th, we went to Poperinge, together with the honourable milord Johannes de Fontibus, representative of the diocese Terenburg. The 13th, 14th and 15th of March, many witnesses (37 in total) swore on the Holy Bible. We have heard these witnesses, questioned them carefully end two notaries have written down their declarations and statements. We understand out of these sayings together with reports and confirmations of biologists, clergy and savants that these events happened in a miraculous, supernatural way, not by human’s hand, but by the help begged from God and his Mother, Virgin Mary. We can thus confirm the truth in following: “Jacquemine Bayaert, wife of Rassoen van Hove, has brought, on Sunday March 11th 1479, a stillborn child into the world, who was buried in the garden of their house. The next Wednesday, the 14th of that same month, the child was dug out of its grave, on request of the parents, by Pieternelle Turlin, an honourable and virtuous woman who remained single and virgin forever. In order that the child could relive and be baptised again, the woman had to promise for seven years not to wear a shirt nor to sleep on a bed of feathers. Both the red colour of the lips and the opening of the eyes and other signs showed clearly that the child was alive and therefore, the midwife took it to the church of St-John in Poperinge.” “Before being baptised it showed clear signs of life: bleeding out of the belly button, opening of the eyes and holding out its hands; this in the church of St-John, before the altar of Our Lady, where it lied for more than an hour before the baptism. Because it lived, it finally has been baptised by Diederik Roene, assistant priest. It was named Jacobus while it was held above the font by numerous parishioners of both sexes. Then, it was taken to the house of its parents where it lived for about an hour. Then it was buried in consecrated soil.
We have declared and approved these facts as a miracle.” This charter ended in: “And because the Holy Virgin Mary would be praised and thanked for such a great deed, and as a reminder of the event itself, we have at the urgent request of the priest, Amman and Aldermen proclaimed and permitted that every year a solemn procession would be held…”