Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière (known as Basilique de Fourvière in French) is a minor basilica in Lyon. It was built with private funds between 1872 and 1884 in a dominant position overlooking the city. The site it occupies was once the Roman forum of Trajan, the forum vetus (old forum), thus its name (as an inverted corruption of the French Vieux-Forum).
Role in the history and life of the city
Fourvière is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to whom is attributed the salvation of the city of Lyon from the bubonic plague, the Black Death, that swept Europe in 1643. Each year in early December (December 8, day of the Immaculate Conception), Lyon thanks the Virgin for saving the city by lighting candles throughout the city, in what is called the Fête des Lumières or the Festival of Lights. The Virgin is also credited with saving the city a number of other times, such as from a Cholera epidemic in 1832, and from Prussian invasion in 1870.
During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1), Prussian forces, having taken Paris, were progressing south towards Lyon. Their halt and retreat were, once again, attributed by the Church to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
Speculating on the reasons for the construction of such an elaborate and expensive building, one author makes the statement that: "The reaction to the communes of Paris and Lyon were triumphalist monuments, the Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre and the basilica of Fourvière, dominating both cities. These buildings were erected with private funds, as gigantic ex-votos, to thank God for victory over the socialists and in expiation of the sins of modern France."
Perched on top of the Fourvière hill, the basilica looms impressively over the city of Lyon, from where it can be seen from many vantage points; not unintentionally, the Basilica of Fourvière has become a symbol of the city. The Basilica, which offers guided tours and contains a Museum of Sacred Art, receives 2 million visitors annually. At certain times, members of the public may access the basilica's north tower for a spectacular 180-degree view of Lyon and its suburbs. On a clear day, Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe, can be seen in the distance.
Design and construction
The design of the basilica, by Pierre Bossan, draws from both Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, two non-Gothic models that were unusual choices at the time. It has four main towers, and a belltower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It features fine mosaics, superb stained glass, and a crypt of Saint Joseph.
Fourvière actually contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design. Work on the triumphant basilica was begun in 1872 and finished in 1884. Finishing touches in the interior were not completed until as late as 1964.
The basilica has acquired the local nickname of "the upside-down elephant", because the building looks like the body of an elephant and the four towers look like its legs.
The Choir of the Basilica
Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc, The Children's Choir of Saint Mark, is the official choir of the Basilica. This choir become well-known after the release of the film Les Choristes. The choir's Director is Monsieur Nicolas Porte.
Since 1982 the tower has housed the antennas of Radio Fourvière, the predecessor of Radios chrétiennes francophones.
Shrine of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
Fourvière has always been a popular place of pilgrimage. There has been a shrine at Fourvière dedicated to Our Lady since 1170. The chapel and parts of the building have been rebuilt at different times over the centuries, the most recent major works being in 1852 when the former steeple was replaced by a tower surmounted by a golden statue of the Virgin Mary sculpted by Joseph-Hugues Fabisch (1812-1886).
On 23 July 1816 twelve Marist aspirants, priests and seminarians, climbed the hill to the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvière and placed their promise to found the Society of Mary (Marists) under the corporal on the altar while Jean-Claude Courveille celebrated Mass.
When the city of Lyon was spared in the Franco-Prussian War (1870), the community committed to build the present Basilica alongside the ancient chapel.
- Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière Website
- Brennan, Jim. "An Unplanned Pilgrimage", St. Anthony Messenger, January 2013
- Bertrand Taithe, Citizenship and Wars: France in Turmoil, 1870-1871, chapter "Religious Identities and Citizenship" 2001:100
- The stained-glass window depicting Marshal Pétain that was installed during the Nazi occupation of Vichy France was removed after the war. (Marianne Mahn-Lot, reviewing Renée Bedarida, Les Catholiques dans la Guerre, 1939-1945 (Hachette) 1999, in Le Mouvement social, No. 206, Au Bonheur Des Allemands Consommateurs et consommation au XXe siècle [January - March 2004:146-148] p. 147.
- Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon Archived January 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Notre-Dame de Fourvière", Eymardian Places
- "Fourviere", the Marist Places
- Commemorative plaque, Shrine of Our Lady of Fourvière
- Credited for architectural work within the monumental edifice is Louis Jean Perrin the father-in-law of Paul Claudel (⚭ Reine Sainte-Marie Perrin, 1906). Bossan was his père nourricier (adoptive father).
- Three hares - an architectural icon and religious symbol used in the basilica.
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