You're welcome! ;)
The article about Pierre-Joseph CÉLORON DE BLAINVILLE is because I think it was him who commanded the company to which Edme VERVET dit SAINT-AMOUR belonged. His family has a long tradition of military career but he is the most likely candidate so perhaps you could study him and find more about Edme and his unit's military history.
I've been looking for more information concerning the old pilgrimages and learned a lot about this fascinating tradition. I'm quite sure many of my ancestors also went to Our Lady (= Notre-Dame) of Liesse at one point or another as most lived nearby and its reputation was well established. I had never heard of it before so I'm quite glad our paths crossed and this research gave me the opportunity to discover this! Many thanks to you! :P
In particular, I've found an excellent file about this very subject ('Paths of Faith') in this magazine from last year: http://www.rfgenealogie.com/la-boutique/outils/nos-ancetres-...
There is too much information to put here but they explain for example that pilgrimages were so popular and so many people were travelling on the roads that it finally caused many disturbances. In the end, the King decided that people had to ask the authorization from Church before going in pilgrimage and carry certificates with them to prove they were not beggars or marauders pretending to be pilgrims... For security, people also went in groups or at least with friends or family so travelling with your wife and children was not so rare. I suppose it depended how long you had to walkl and how wealthy one was because it could means weeks or months on the road!
I translated for you the parts relating to Notre-Dame de Liesse:
Nos Ancêtres, Vie et Métiers - No.58 - November-December 2012
« In the first half of the 17th century, the cities affected by the plague come in long processions to implore the help of Notre-Dame de Liesse, near Laon. The influence of this important center of sacredness is extended: the pilgrims cover more than six hundred kilometers to get there from distant regions like the Nivernais or Poitou. The fame of the sanctuary is national, even if it drains mainly faithful from the Paris Basin. At the end of the 17th century, the Jesuit priest Laurent Bouchet, who has a cure in the Paris region, described this sanctuary as "renowned throughout France because of miracles and there are now frequent pilgrimages from all sides of the kingdom. " In the 17th century, 195 miracles are listed in Liesse. The treasure of the sanctuary includes many gold cords with a bullet or a splinter miraculously out of the injured body. It also includes ex-voto, symbolic refunds for a granted benefit, eg "silver legs" offered by former paralytic who received healing, or "silver children" given by those who obtained the birth of an heir. The miraculously cured ones are mostly adult men. The nobles cured through the intercession of Our Lady represent 8.6% of miracles, while they make up at this time between 1% and 1.5% of the population. Their proportion is important in relation to what they represent quantitatively in French society of the Old Regime (= before 1789). The people of the Robe (judges, lawyers ...), pensioners and traders form the largest fraction of miracles, with 63%. On the contrary, popular classes, including shopkeepers and artisans, only 29%. Among the miracles are also a few dozen soldiers and sailors. Farmers (~75% of population) are almost entirely absent. The clergy is represented only up to 7.6%, with a majority of members of the regular clergy. It has 67 city dwellers, many of whom are domiciled in Paris. Because of its central position, its political role, its relative proximity to the sanctuary, Paris receives quickly announces of new miracles: the flow of information itself contributes to supply the influx of pilgrims. »
« Why going on pilgrimage?
Many reasons motivate them to take the route of a pilgrimage: devotion, thanks for a favor deemed of divine origin, birth... The examination of police records relating to pilgrims arrested accurately reflect circumstances in which were pronounced the vows of pilgrimage. For example, in April 1769 is questioned in a prison in Périgueux a laundress named Marianne Leblanc, a native of the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland. She made the pilgrimage to Galicia with her husband, François Jérémie Desroland, wig maker, she said, "to fulfill a vow they had made for having escaped the danger of drowning at sea." Indeed, during a trip to America, "they had the misfortune to suffer a blow that made them to shipwreck [...] and were among those who had the good fortune to escape on the coast of Normandy." Nicolas Hasse, from Luxembourg, former soldier aged 73, was arrested while begging by the constabulary of Touraine in August 1781. He assures them that "he just made a trip to Rome and Santiago (de Compostela), because being caught at sea, he fled and made a vow." During the summer of 1789, Louis Jourclin, bailiff of the lordship of the Marquis de Clervaux, from Châteauneuf, a suburb of Chatellerault, went to Mont-Saint-Michel, "which he vowed to go there eight or nine years ago, for a disease. "
Kings lead by example. Notre-Dame de Chartres repeatedly receives the visit of King Henry III of France and Queen Louise de Lorraine. In April 1583, for example, in the hope of getting a son, they go on foot and dressed as humble pilgrims from Paris to Chartres, then to Notre-Dame de Cléry before returning to the capital. The following year, the King leaves Chartres accompanied by Capuchin religious, Minims and fifty princes and lords, dressed as pilgrims. All go on foot, preceded by a heavy cross that each carry in turn. After the birth of the future King Louis XIII, Queen Marie de Medici went twice to Notre-Dame de Liesse, in 1602 and 1603. However, after the journey of Louis XIV at the Sainte-Baume in 1660, royal pilgrimages ritual changes.
Gilles Caillotin, born in Reims in the family of a baize making master, qualified in his passport as "beggar" fulfilled, in addition to his journey to Rome in 1724, eight pilgrimages between 1712 and 1736, in particular to Notre-Dame de Liesse and Alise-Sainte-Reine. He expresses in these terms his insatiable desire for traveling around: "The plight of the poor pilgrim I was, filled with an itch to always see something new and devout [...] just as I was arrived I already thought of my departure, it always seemed to me I was unduly delayed, because of two causes, the first missing all my comforts and the second that I would have needed a companion in line with my designs and on whose fidelity I might have been able to count. " »
« Pilgrimage, in the eyes of the Church, should provide an opportunity to repent "by enduring patiently the work and discomforts of the road." Most pilgrims go on foot, according to the saying: "It is by walking that one becomes a pilgrim"... (...)
Some pilgrims combine several means of transport. For example, the Breton priest Pierre Barizy de Kerscomer, who goes to Rome with a companion, arrives at his destination on May 4, 1686
having left Noyal Pontivy on March 7. He spent most of the journey on feet, meaning three hundred and six miles, but also twenty-one leagues on horseback, sixteen on donkey back and one on mule back, fifteen in a cart and eleven on water. The coach, more comfortable, is preferably used by the nobles, such as those who come during the 17th century to Notre-Dame de Liesse, in the north of Laon. Kings Louis XIII (d.1643) and Louis XIV (d.1715) each visit five times this sanctuary, between 1610 and 1637 for the first, and in 1652 and 1680 respectively for the second. In the Paris Basin, pilgrims can use at this period the "water coaches", capable of transporting cheaply about fifty people.
"The material conditions of the pilgrimage"
Divisions exist between pilgrims when it comes to accommodation.
At Notre-Dame de Liesse, Archbishop of Reims Charles of Lorraine (d.1574) bought already in 1547 the land of Marchais in order to build a "beautiful building" worthy of princes coming on pilgrimage. But the majority of pilgrims spend most of their nights on straw of sheepfolds and stables, or in hospitals and hospices. Their stories compare the quality of welcomes and lodges. The hardest part is the refusal of hospitality. As he says, it is reluctantly that a wealthy family of the Mâcon vineyards hosted Gille Caillotin who, in 1724, walk from Reims towards Rome. By dint of insistence, he finally got to spend the night at the table, sandwiched between two oxen. »
I've also found a video with a report on this church so you can see what it looks like nowadays (to compare with this picture of the 1780's: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b77412102
The comment is in French of course but I could translate if you're interested. The rood screen inside, which is showed at the beginning, was already there when your ancestors went, it was build in 1616. The Black Virgin Mary statue is not the original however as it was burned during the Revolution (1789). The jewelled crown was replaced in 1857 but the statue was vandalized once more in 1948 and Mary and Jesus crowns disappeared again. Pilgrims from the whole world still come here nowadays.
Finally I don't know if they're related to yours but I've found some VERVETs from Auzelles here:
I'll be pleased to keep in touch and let me know if you make progress or need further help. My email: ama2fr (at) gmail.com