Lyons (69 France): Our Lady of Fourvière

A pious tradition says that Saint Pothinus, first bishop of Lyons, brought with him an icon of the Virgin, c. 150 A.D.

In 1168, a chapel was built to Our Lady on the hilltop of Fourvière. This chapel was destroyed in 1562 by the Baron des Adrets but rebuilt soon after.

Marian devotion continued to develop in Fourvière, becoming especially popular when in 1638 King Louis XIII consecrated France to the Virgin Mary

In 1643 the people of Lyons consecrated themselves to Our Lady Fourvière and pledged themselves to make a solemn procession on September 8th of each year, in thanksgiving for the end of an epidemy of plague (vow of the Echevins). On that day, the people make a present to the Virgin of a seven-pound candle and a gold coin. This annual procession continues to this day, with the participation of the mayor of Lyons or one of his representatives.

In 1830, the steeple of the chapel was deemed in a poor condition and unsafe, and it was demolished. The architect Mr. Duboys was chosen for the reconstruction project, and it was decided that a golden statue of Mary would be added to the steeple. The inauguration of the renovated chapel was initially scheduled for September 8, 1852, feast of the Nativity of Mary, but heavy rains instead flooded the foundry where the statue was stored, causing the inauguration to be moved to December 8th.

The statue was installed but again the weather was uncooperative, so the planned fireworks and festivities had to be cancelled. The people of Lyons, undismayed by this, put out lanterns on their windowsills when the rain abated later in the evening, as a sign of their devotion. This episode is at the origin of the street illuminations of December 8th, an annual tradition in Lyons nowadays.