La Trinité (06, near Nice) : Our Lady of Laghet

Our Lady of Laghet

Our Lady of Laghet is the name of the Virgin Mary associated to that of a small village near Nice, in the south of France (Alpes Maritimes). The first mention of this village is found in an 11th-century chart. In the 12th century, the land of Laghet belonged to the fief of Eze and shared the same history. At that time there was a small chapel in Laghet dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the 15th century, the chapel was used as a local site of pilgrimage. However this modest oratory, built in such an isolated place and exposed to the elements, was constantly in need of repair. Eventually the chapel fell into disuse when the village was deserted. Thereafter, only the shepherds who brought their flocks to graze in the desolate fields, as well as a few peasants who came to till the valley, sheltered their beasts there.

Then, in the 17th century, a fervent priest, Fr. Jacques Fighiera, found the chapel of Laghet in a sad state of disrepair and decided to intervene. In 1628, Fr. Fighiera had the roof rebuilt, the walls whitewashed, the ground made even, and a proper door with a lock installed. He kept the keys on himself at all times. He also had the path of Eze that led to Laghet made like new. He did all this at his own expense "in the honor of God and the Virgin Mary." Then he announced to the nearby population that the chapel of Laghet was restored and that he would ensure all services--a task that he fulfilled without any compensation for 25 years. The inhabitants of Villefranche who had gone to the chapel before it was profaned, started coming back. And the Lord, through Our Lady, answered the trusting prayers of the faithful encouraged by their pastor. The Virgin showed her goodness by giving many miracles. People came to pray the Virgin of the chapel from Piedmont, from far-away Liguria, and from all corners of Provence.

However, the statue that was venerated there bore the marks of time and the harshness of the elements. Fr. Fighiera owned a beautiful statue of the Virgin, until then placed on an altar of the church of Eze. In order to crown his work and prove his gratitude to Our Lady for the miracles granted, Fr. Fighiera decided to donate this statue to the chapel of Laghet.  On June 24, 1652, the White Penitents of Eze carried the statue in procession all the way to Laghet. Since then, each year on the same date, the parish of Eze renews this act of devotion by coming in pilgrimage to Laghet in procession from Eze carrying the statue of Our Lady.

The bishop of Nice, Mgr De Palletis, applying the guidelines of the Council of Trent, undertook a serious investigation before he authorized the pilgrimage. Until the decision was made official, the statue had to be covered and the chapel kept closed. Then a commission of theologians assisted by a lawyer and a doctor was convened to examine the facts of Laghet while the bishop himself visited the village to form his own opinion of the behavior of the pilgrims. On December 20, 1653, this commission confirmed the authenticity of the miracles and the bishop both authorized and encouraged the devotion to Our Lady of Laghet. On April 25, 1654, he presided at the first official pilgrimage to Laghet.

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Father Joseph Simon

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