In France, Marian history started at a very early date!
“The Virgin who will give birth”: the first message delivered by Mary in Gaul, prior to the fifth century
The first message delivered by Mary in Gaul appears to have taken place at Chartres, which was at the time the capital of the Carnute tribe. The apparition of Mary as “The Virgin who will give birth” occurred before 5 AD on the site of what is now the famous Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres.
As for the first actual shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary renowned in Gaul was built in the fifth century, in the city of the Puy en Velay. The story has it that an ailing woman who was praying to the Mother of Christ was led by an angel to the top of one of the highest hills in the city. At this site, in response to her prayers, Mary appeared and the woman was cured. The St Mary's Chapel still sits on the spot of the miracle. In fact the city was initially named “Le Puy Marie.” Today the Shrine of Our Lady of the Puy is among the most visited sites of pilgrimage in France.
Another shrine of great importance in 5th century Gaul is Notre Dame of Reims (built in 401 at the request of the bishop Saint Nicaise.) where on December 25, 496 the baptism of the recent invader and ruler of Gaul, by the bishop Saint Remi; Clovis the first king of the Franks after whom France was named. In the next few centuries Marian shrines multiplied. The most well known along the pilgrimage trail leading to Saint James of Compostela are: Our Lady of Vezelay and Our Lady of Rocamadour. Later, between the 10th and 12th centuries, imposing Gothic cathedrals dedicated to the Virgin Mary were erected: Paris, Chartres, Bourges, Reims, Laon, etc.
In the 13th century, at the wish of Louis XIII France was consecrated to Our Lady of the Assumption and Mary became one of the principal patrons of the country
Among other approved Marian apparitions in France, let us mention Our Lady of Graces who appeared in the 16th century, at Cotignac, in the Provence region, and whose pilgrimage was sabotaged by the French Revolution of 1789; but which has since fully regained its popularity. Another key moment in France's Marian history concerns the Oath of Louis XIII on February 10, 1638, consecrating France to Our Lady. As a result, Our Lady of the Assumption was declared principal patroness of France while the date of August 15, feast of Our Lady of the Assumption, was established as a national holiday. (2)
From the 17th century on the apparitions of Mary have proliferated in France. A few years before the apparition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St Margaret Mary Alacoque at Paray le Monial in 1673, an apparition of Mary to a young shepherdess named Benedicta Rencurel, was recorded in the village of the Laus (Alps) in the year 1664.
The 19th century recorded a great number of Mary’s apparitions in France…
Some important accounts of Marian apparitions in France are:
Apparition to Saint Catherine Laboure (Rue du Bac) where Mary expressed the wish to have a "miraculous medal" struck for the faithful. In 1846, 16 years later, in the French Alps for another time, a tearful Virgin appeared to two children. Then twelve years later, in Lourdes, Mary visited Saint Bernadette Soubirous and confirmed the new dogma of her Immaculate Conception. In 1876, in Pellevoisin, region of Berry, under the name of Mother of Mercy, Mary appears to the young Estelle Faguette whom she cures and asks to spread the devotion of the scapular.
Marian apparitions in the 20th century:
At l’Ile Bouchard, in 1957, Mary appears to four young children and asks them to pray for France, whose government was in imminent danger of a coup. France was spared in extremis from a coup d'Etat. More recently, the initiative of the Pilgrim Virgins of Notre Dame of France has given rise to a renewed Marian devotion. The pilgrimage of the statues started in September 1995 in Le Puy en Velay. Before reaching Notre Dame de Baillet in France near Paris, the statues were carried for a whole year across the country and its parishes. From there they crossed to Italy to converge in Rome, December 8, 1996, as the launching platform to the world’s 5 continents.
France's most popular Marian shrines are:
Our Lady of l’Ile Bouchard
Our Lady of Laghet (diocese of Nice)
Our Lady of Victories (Notre Dame des Victoires, Paris)
Our Lady of the Laus
Our Lady of Peace
Our Lady of Lourdes
Our Lady of Reims
Our Lady of les Ardilliers at Saumur
Our Lady of Gray
Our Lady of La Treille - protectress of the Flanders
Our Lady of Lavasina - the "Lourdes" of Corsica
Our Lady of Myans - near Chambery
Our Lady of Thierenbach - in the Alsacian foothills
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Our Lady of the Puy en Velay
Our Lady of La Salette
Our Lady of Pontmain and Pellevoisin
Our Lady the Underground (Chartres)
Our Lady of Cotignac
Our Lady of Rocamadour
Our Lady of La Garde at Marseille
Our Lady of Happiness in Ollioules (Toulon) Oath of Louis XIII, address to the Senate
Consecration to Mary, at the Marian Congress of 1938.
Consecration to Our Lady of Corsica