A view from the church of Saint-Étienne-le-Laus
|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Gaston Disdier|
|8.66 km2 (3.34 sq mi)|
|• Density||34/km2 (89/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+01:00 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+02:00 (CEST)|
|Elevation||699–1,266 m (2,293–4,154 ft) |
(avg. 735 m or 2,411 ft)
|1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries. 2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.|
Besides being a popular vacation spot, the region is probably best known for the lengthy series of Marian apparitions which are said to have occurred there between 1664 and 1718, reported by shepherdess Benoîte Rencurel. The church that was established around these Marian apparitions, Notre Dame du Laus, has been described as "one of the most hidden and yet powerful treasures in the history of Europe". The apparitions were officially recognized by the diocesan authority of the Roman Catholic Church on September 18, 1665.
The "Laus" (formerly spelled "Laux") in the name of the commune, Saint-Étienne-le-Laus, and that of the church, Notre Dame du Laus, means "lake", in the Alpine Provençal dialect, which was a local derivation from the Latin word "lacus". On votive offerings and some older stones, the indication is Latin "Sancta Maria Lacensis", which means "St. Mary of the Lake".
Starting in 1664, and lasting for 54 years, in and around Laus, Benoîte Rencurel saw the Virgin Mary, also known as Our Lady of Laus or Notre Dame du Laus, along with Christ on the Cross, Saint Maurice, Saint Barbara, Saint Joseph, Saint Gervais and Saint Protais, the Child Jesus, Saint Catherine of Siena, the angels and the devil. As a result of these appearances, within a few years, a crowd of pilgrims arrived at Laus, estimated at 130,000 within the first two years. In 1666, construction was started on a church to enclose the little chapel at Laus where Lady Mary had appeared to Benoite Rencurel.
On May 4, 2008, Bishop Jean Marie di Falco, the Bishop of Gap and Embrun, officially recognized the supernatural nature of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Benoîte Rencurel. This recognition by the Catholic Church marks the first approved Marian apparition in the 21st century, and the first in France since Lourdes was recognized, a century and a half ago. Consistent with that recognition, Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco has supported the beatification of Benoîte Rencurel. Under the auspices of Bishop Rene Combal, six experts (a theologian, a historian, a biblical scholar, a psychoanalyst, a psychologist, and a magistrate) have studied for several years the historical, and scientific and medical facts, from manuscripts written contemporaneously with Benoîte Rencurel's life.
The basilica today at Saint-Étienne-le-Laus, dedicated to Our Lady of Laus, contains:
- The Chapel of Good Encounter ("Bon Rencontre"), the original chapel in Laus,
- The 18th century marble statue by Honoré Pellé (alternatively, Honoré Pela) of Notre Dame du Laus, in which Mary holds in one hand the child Jesus, and in the other an apple, as she is the mediatrix between sin and salvation (this statue was crowned in the 19th century),
- The oil lamp of the sanctuary, from which the healing oil of Laus is drawn,
- The tomb of Benoîte Rencurel, immediately in front of the Chapel of Good Meeting,
- 14 paintings showing the life of Benoîte Rencurel, including her visions of St. Meurice, the angels, and the Blessed Virgin Mary,
- The statue of Our Lady of Grace ("Notre-Dame des Grâces") that is carried in procession, and
- The rounded apse chapel ("la Rotonde"), which contains a portrait of Benoîte Rencurel.
Two items that are unique to Notre Dame du Laus are worth mentioning in more detail. The first is the oil from the sanctuary lamp. The lamp glows continuously in the sanctuary in front of the tabernacle. Oil is the means chosen by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Laus to grant physical and spiritual healings. Many healings (and alleviation of symptoms) have been reported by people who apply oil from the lamp to the afflicted area, with faith and in prayer to the intercession of Notre Dame du Laus. The oil has been described as having the equivalent healing powers of the waters of Lourdes. The oil is free, and is sent to anyone who requests it from the website of the Sanctuary of Notre Dame du Laus (in French only at this time).
Laus is also a place of famed "suave odors" or "exquisite fragrances". The inhalations of these scents are reported to bring a sudden, calm joy to the senses. The beneficiaries of these fragrances retain a deep impression from the experiences which often encourages them to better prayers. It was said of Benoîte Rencurel that she always smelled these perfumes when she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the scents, which impregnated everything, persisted even after the apparition of Our Lady ended. Indeed, the sculptor Honoré Pellé (alternatively, Honoré Pela) gave the marble statue of Notre Dame du Laus, noted above, after being immersed in these exquisite fragrances during a pilgrimage to Laus.
- Our Lady of Laus, told in the form of a hagiographic legend. Webpage found 2008-04-06.
- fr:Notre-Dame du Laus
- "My Name is Lady Mary", on the Mary of Nazareth website, found 2008-04-06.
- fr:Jean-Michel di Falco
- fr:Honoré Pellé
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-08. Retrieved 2012-04-30.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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