Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Le-Puy-en-Velay is the site of the shrine of Our Lady of France, one of the most ancient shrines in France, as well as being one of the starting points of the pilgrimage road to Compostela. The last time we visited France my husband and I drove there from Toulouse. Driving through the mountains of Auvergne was like being in heaven and hell at the same time; the scenery was spectacular beyond words while the drops off the sides of the cliffs upon which we were driving were enough to make me paralyzed with terror. As difficult as it was to get to Le-Puy-en-Velay in 1999, I could only imagine the perils of getting there in the Middle Ages. And yet many people have journeyed to the shrine over the centuries, including peasants like St. Joan of Arc's mother, Isabelle Romée.

According to France This Way:

Le Puy en Velay, in the heart of the Massif central, is in an impressive setting surrounded by high hills and the famous conical volcano forms of the region.

This does make Le Puy a bit difficult to reach, but it is a journey worth the trouble. The town is a major attraction with visitors, despite its relative isolation and receives more than 700,000 visitors each year.

Le Puy is above all famous for being the start point of one of the main pilgrimage paths in France that lead to Santiago de Compostella, and the religious monuments that are a result of this important historical role.

The origin of the shrine of Our Lady is describes as follows:
Legend traces the origin of the pilgrimage of Le Puy to an apparition of the Blessed Virgin to a sick widow whom St. Martial had converted. No French pilgrimage was more frequented in the Middle Ages. Charlemagne came twice, in 772 and 800; there is a legend that in 772 he established a foundation at the cathedral for ten poor canons (chanoines de paupérie), and he chose Le Puy, with Aachen and Saint-Gilles, as a centre for the collection of Peter's Pence. Charles the Bald visited Le Puy in 877, Eudes in 892, Robert in 1029, Philip Augustus in 1183. Louis IX met the King of Aragon there in 1245; and in 1254 passing through Le Puy on his return from the Holy Land, he gave to the cathedral an ebony image of the Blessed Virgin clothed in gold brocade. After him, Le Puy was visited by Philip the Bold in 1282, by Philip the Fair in 1285, by Charles VI in 1394, by Charles VII in 1420, and by the mother of Blessed Joan of Arc in 1429. Louis XI made the pilgrimage in 1436 and 1475, and in 1476 halted three leagues from the city and went to the cathedral barefooted. Charles VIII visited it in 1495, Francis I in 1533. Theodulph, Bishop of Orléans, brought to Our Lady of Le Puy, as an ex-voto for his deliverance, a magnificent Bible, the letters of which were made of plates of gold and silver, which he had himself put together, about 820, while in prison at Angers. St. Mayeul, St. Odilon, St. Robert, St. Hugh of Grenoble, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Dominic, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. John Francis Regis were pilgrims to Le Puy.
The statue of Our Lady of France and the ancient chapel of Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe are built of the top of two extinct volcanoes. I was so captivated by Le-Puy-en-Velay and Auvergne that I made the region the setting from which the heroine in my new novel sets forth on her adventures.
More phenomenal photos HERE, HERE and HERE. Share


Christine said...

How enchanting! So wonderful, despite the secularism we read so much about in France, that she still has so many beautiful shrines dedicated to Our Lady!

Regina said...

Oh my- the journey sounds daunting but oh, so worth it!

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Speaking of St Dominic, check out this.

elena maria vidal said...

C'est trés intéressant! Merci!