In 1860, the town of Puy-en-Velay (south-central France) inaugurated a monumental statue of Our Lady of France made out of melted guns.
Later, in 1883, when a center was built in Jerusalem to provide lodging for French pilgrims , it was decided to top the building with a large replica of that statue.
The same statue was replicated on an even larger scale for the 1937 Paris World Fair’s Pontifical Pavilion. The work of French sculptor Roger de Villiers, it measured 7 meters high.
The following year, France happened to be commemorating the 300th anniversary of the consecration of France to the Virgin Mary by King Louis XIII, so the pavilion was kept and renamed “Marian Pavillion.”
When it was taken down on November 2, 1938, the Catholic newspaper La Croix reported that Cardinal Verdier, the archbishop of Paris wished "that the luminous statue of Our Lady of France, which has so beautifully crowned the Pontifical Pavilion—turned Marian Pavilion—not disappear, but be installed on a hill near Paris ... to complement the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre!"
The cardinal followed up on his vision and launched a pledge campaign to raise funds for the new shrine. Unfortunately, the project was interrupted and abandoned by the outbreak of WWII in 1939, and the cardinal’s own death in 1940.
Fifty years later, at the end of providential turns of events, a notary public in the town of Saint-Denis named Edmond Fricoteaux, finally managed to install the statue in Baillet-en-France, about 10 miles north of Paris. Fifty-two thousand people attended its inauguration, including 25,000 donors, 7 bishops, the papal Nuncio, and the Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Lustiger, on October 15, 1988. The blessing of the statue occurred almost 50 years to the day of Cardinal Verdier's vow.
Olivier Bonnassies. Excerpt from an interview by Zenit News Agency, November 7, 2007