In the 1134th Year of Our Lord, three Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, prisoners of the Muslims in Egypt, miraculously found (or received) in their prison a statue of Our Lady, which they named Our Lady of Joy, or Notre Dame de Liesse (Causa Nostra Lætitiæ).
In response to the prayers of these three knights, a young Muslim princess named Ismerie was intrigued by their prayers, austerity, devotion and chivalry. Through the intercession of Our Lady and the mercy of God, the princess was converted to the one holy Catholic Faith. This of course was a capital punishment in her society and her very life was in danger on account of her discover and adherence to the one Living God. Before being discovered as a Catholic, the princess arranged for the escape of the pious crusaders. She was then able to join them a secret harbor and accompanied them on their return journey to France. The knights had been sure to carry the miraculous statue with them, as it was their most prized possession. In the region of Laon, about thirty-five miles northwest of Reims, they founded a church as a resting place for the miraculous statue of Our Lady.
On account of a growing local devotion, the church received the name of the statue. Its fame and popularity was so great, that soon the whole region received the name. Notre Dame de Liesse came to refer to both the devotion and to this area of France. The statue came to be venerated by many, and Notre Dame de Liesse became the Patroness of the Diocese of Soissons.
In 1620 AD, the titular Bailiff of Armenia, Fra’ Jacques Chenu de Bellay, built a church to Our Lady of Liesse at Valletta in Malta. It is today the chaplaincy church of the Port of Valetta.
In 1686, St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle and twelve Brothers went to the shrine of Our Lady of Liesse to renew their vow of obedience (image above, a paiting by Giovannia Gagliardi, 1901).
Sadly, the original statue was destroyed to the diabolical French Revolution. The crazed revolutionaries had an intense hatred for any and all things Catholic. They razed many churches and shrines and despoiled the Church of many of her treasures. Nevertheless, the medieval basilica at Liesse remained a center of devotion to the Mother of God. When saner times returned, a new statue was installed (image below) and crowned there in 1857. It is still visited by many Catholics and remains the focus of pilgrimages, especially on Whit Monday. (An image of the basilica of Notre Dame de Liesse is below.)