In July of the year 47, the Virgin Mary appeared on Mount Anis to a woman, Vila, healing her from a serious illness. Two centuries later Our Lady would have reappeared in the same place to a paralytic, healing her. Over the centuries, the original chapel was transformed into the current sanctuary.
In Le Puy en Velay the gigantic statue of Our Lady of France and the Church of Saint Michael d’Aiguilhe are famous. They are located outside the city, located on two volcanic peaks.
A large staircase (134 steps) leads to the Cathedral. Romanesque in style, it has different influences, attributable to the Orient and Moorish Spain. The cathedral choir rests directly on a high rocky outcrop. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, to enlarge the cathedral in order to accommodate ever more numerous pilgrims, four additional spans, supported by pillars and arches, were boldly built on the void, to recover a difference in height of 17 meters.
Le Puy had never been a “Roman city” but a typical Gallic village, with a pagan sanctuary that boasted the presence of “sound stones”, that is particular volcanic rocks, considered therapeutic. Christianity was introduced in Gaul in a peaceful way, completing the local traditions naturally.
The Marian apparitions therefore inserted this context in the Christian religion and today inside the church, you can still see the “stone of the fevers”, a volcanic dolmen on which pilgrims, even in the Christian era, stretched out to be cured of the most persistent fevers, especially the night between Friday and Saturday.
And it is precisely during this period that the most characteristic tradition of this sanctuary comes forward: every time the feast of the Annunciation falls on Good Friday, a period of grace opens for all Christianity. Precisely for this reason, the solemn opening of this jubilee was scheduled for March 24, 2005, which lasted until August 15, 2005.
In 1254 Louis IX on returning from the seventh crusade, showed his devotion by giving the sanctuary a cedar statue, probably of Egyptian origin and depicting an oriental goddess, perhaps Isis with the small Horus in her arms, who was immediately venerated with enthusiasm, as “Black Madonna”. In 1620, however, Odo di Gissey said that the statue was actually much older and dated back to the times of a pilgrimage by King Clovis to the holy land. In 1778 Faugias de Sant Fouds, after careful examination, defined it the oldest statue of the Virgin owned by France.
The Black Virgin was burned during the French Revolution in 1794 as a banner of monarchical obscurantism and today what is offered to the devotion of pilgrims is only a copy, placed on the main altar which contains a small piece of the original. Le Puy was a very important city in the Christian world of the first millennium. It was the starting point of one of the four main ways that led Christians from all over Europe to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, to pray on the tomb of Saint James.
From the top of the Corneille rocky peak, the Statue of Our Lady of Le Puy en Velay (38.7 m high and weighing 835 tons) dominates the city. It was sculpted by Jean-Marie Bonnassieux: it is made of iron and was made with 213 cannons, offered by General Pélissier, winner of the Crimean War. The monument represents the Holy Virgin in the act of indicating the city to Jesus to bless it. The statue was inaugurated on September 12, 1860, in front of 120,000 pilgrims.
The Chapel of Saint Michael was built on the rocky peak of Aiguilhe in 950, in honor of the Archangel. Its construction was willed by Gothescalk, bishop of Le Puy, on his return from a pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella. This place too is therefore linked to the medieval tradition of pilgrimages to Compostella.
Sito Ufficiale del Santuario – https://www.cathedraledupuy.org/guides/italiana