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The Tunnel and St Nicolas Abbey

On 30th November 1854, the contract of purchase of a part of the buildings of the St Nicholas abbey was signed by the congregation. Since 1791, the abbey had been “national property”, therefore property of the Government. The abbey was bought for 100 000 Francs to welcome to groups of people: minors, both under detention and freed. But there was no way of communication between the abbey and the buildings of the Motherhouse. Furthermore, the Sisters had to respect the rule of monastic enclosure and they had to have to Bishop’s permission to leave the convent. In order to get around this difficult, Mary Euphrasia had the idea to dig a tunnel between the gardens and the abbey, thus allowing the Sisters to stay in the enclosure by walking underground. At the time, it was a substantial entreprise, and many people tried to dissuade Mary Euphrasia from doing it, saying it was impossible to dig a tunnel. But Mary Euphrasia kept her idea. She obtained the authorization of the Mayor of Angers and of the Prefect of Maine-et-Loire because it was necessary to dig under what was then the imperial road.

After 3 months of work between May and August 1855 during which about 50 workers and even the Sisters were involved, the route was opened on 26th August. The Sisters still continue to use this 55 meters long tunnel today to go to the abbey. They also hold a spiritual experience around the transition from darkness to light.