Fr. Robert M. Egan, CSV, Superior General and some members of his General Council met late last month in Vourles, France, home to the General Direction office. However, before departing their separate ways, Council members visited Notre Dame de Fourvière, which is a historic basilica in nearby Lyon, dedicated to Mary.
“We always visit Fourvière to pray for the congregation,” says Fr. Claudio Rios, CSV, Vicar General of Chile. “It is a custom that belonged to Fr. Querbes.”
According to archival records, Fr. Querbes often prayed to our Lady of Fourvière as a youth. The original statue was contained in a chapel built on the site of a Roman Forum and a temple. Its roots date back to the 12th century, when the chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the medieval English Saint Thomas Becket.
Translated, Fourvière means forum. Consequently Notre Dame de Fourvière means Our Lady of the Forum.
The basilica in Lyon was built in 1872 and consecrated in 1896, long after Fr. Querbes had died (1859). But the congregation he founded in 1831 prioritized his devotion to Mary, and in particular, Notre Dame de Fourvière.
“It is a beautiful basilica that has two levels plus a side chapel with the original statue,” Fr. Rios says.
In that same side chapel is a plaque dedicated to Fr. Querbes and his devotion to Our Lady of Fourvière. Translated the plaque reads: “Fr. Louis Querbes, 1793-1859, priest of Vourles. Founded the Clerics of St. Viator. Found here light, strength and consolation, and consecrated to Mary his religious departing for distant foundations.”
“Every time I visit Vourles, I try to go up to Lyon to pray for our religious from all over the world,” Fr. Rios adds, “”and especially these last times I have entrusted our General Chapter to Fr. Querbes.”
Since its construction, the basilica has become one of the major symbols of Lyon and attracts 2.5 million visitors each year. Its high church features three naves — topped with three domes — and three pointed-arched bays. The entire upper church is supported by 16 columns with eight chapels and prominent seven-foot tall stained glass windows.
Mosaic panels cover the walls of the church, all dedicated to Mary, and statues of Mary are prominently featured above the main altar and outdoors, on top of one of its domes. Not only can this golden bronze statue of the Virgin Mary be seen throughout the city of Lyon, but for centuries she is believed to have protected the city and its residents from harm.
Finally, adjoining the Basilica is the ancient Chapel of the Virgin Mary and a terrace that provides a panoramic view of the city of Lyon, which is particularly beautiful at night. Fr. Rios captured these images of this majestic Marian shrine.