Musical Nuns became an enormously popular Catholic collectible thanks to a Dominican of the Fichermont Convent in Belgium, Sister Luc Gabriel, (1933-1985).

Born Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers, and later known as Jeanine Deckers, she was well-loved in her convent for her music and was encouraged by the other Sisters to record her work.

In 1963, the album was released and one song, Dominique, dedicated to the founder of her order, Saint Dominic, soared to the top of the charts in the United States Overnight, using the stage name Soeur Souire (Sister Smile in English) she became an international celebrity, performing in concerts.  In 1964 she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, an appearance that meant one had “arrived.”

In 1966, Debbie Reynolds starred in a the title role of a movie called The Singing Nuns a huge box office hit, making the song even more popular — along with the little nun music boxes that played the tune.

Music from the Soul is the story of the life of the Singing Nun and the difficulties she faced toward the end of her life. Read more

 If you’re lucky enough to have a music box that plays the tune Dominique, you might like to sing along. Here are the lyrics in French:

While musical nuns are certainly one of the most popular “nun collectibles”, the trio pictured below is without a doubt the one that fetches the highest price across the board.

Made by Sankyo in Japan, these generally have a foil Made in Japan sticker on the bottom as well. Measuring 6″ wide by 5 1/2″ high, there is a large circular hole in the back of the porcelain which is fitted with a wood covered wind up musical works. Generally, the tune offered is Dominique, the song made popular by The Singing Nun, but on occasion you will also find Silent Night.


Dominique, nique, nique
S’en allait tout simplement,
Routier pauvre et chantant
En tous chemins, en tous lieux
Il ne parle que du bon Dieu.


A l’époque où Jean Sans Terre
D’Angleterre était roi,
Dominique, notre Père,
Combattit les Albigeois.
(Au Refrain)
Certain jour un hérétique
Par des ronces le conduit,
Mais notre Père Dominique
Par sa joie le convertit.
(Au Refrain)
Ni chameau, ni diligence,
Il parcourt l’Europe à pied.
Scandinavie ou Provence
Dans la sainte pauvreté.
(Au Refrain)

Enflamma de toute écoles
Filles et garçons pleins d’ardeur,
Et pour semer la Parole
Inventa les Frères Prêcheurs.
(Au Refrain)Chez Dominique et Ses Frères
Le pain s’en vint à manquer
Et deux anges se présentèrent,
Portant deux grands pains dorés.
(Au Refrain)
Dominique vit en rêve
Les prêcheurs du monde entier,
Sous le manteau de la Vierge
En grand nombre rassemblés.
(Au Refrain)
Dominique, mon bon Père,
Garde-nous simples et gais
Pour annoncer à nos frères
La Vie et La Vérité.
(Au Refrain)
Little sound holes are present in the mouths of the Sisters, The three attached Sisters hold choir books that most usually have notes written on them.The The shoes are usually glazed and the Crosses on their breasts are gilded.  Some versions have glazed white collars, while others are unglazed. The veils and black habits are always unglazed sometimes giving them a rather dull look. The delicately hand painted faces make up for it. They are colorful and engaging without being garish.

The Crucifixes on the rosaries that dangle from their belts are nearly always gilded.

Sankyo also made a set with white veils, and these are much harder to find. The lucky winner of the auction below got both sets for about $52.


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Christine Hirschfeld

I never intended to run a Catholic antiquities and book business. Not in a million years. As a cradle Catholic, I grew up in a house that was filled with Catholic images and sacramentals not to mention an abundance of excellent books provided by family members who worked in publishing houses famous for their Catholic catalogues. The beautiful images and concepts presented in those books certainly had their effect in enhancing my identity as a Catholic. As the years passed, even in the midst of very un-Catholic settings, I became a repository for my friends’ Catholic “found objects.” Eventually, I had a family of my own. We’re a small family. There are just three of us. And two of us were born with the “junk collecting gene.” Garage sales attracted us like a magnet.
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