With the ex-voto, the faithful express their gratitude for the fulfilment of their prayer through the Virgin Mary’s intercession.
There are different types of ex-voto: paintings, embroidery, military decorations, slabs of marble, golden silver heart-shaped objects. The most visible ex-voto are the paintings hung on the walls of the two chapels throughout the centuries. It is difficult to evaluate their number since the collection was reconstituted after 1805. At the beginning of the 19th century, they were not really popular any longer. They were scattered because of the fire in 1926 and the demolition of the Saint Thomas nave in 1930 to make room for the big sacristy. Some of them were gathered in the Chapel of Our Lady while others were destroyed. The current collection is made up of 241. On 8th December 2007, over 80 were reinstalled in the chapel once it was restored. The others are kept, with all necessary care, in the storehouse of the religious art museum of Fourvière.
A few hundreds of votive hearts were placed in the Chapel of Our Lady, next to the paintings, around the two statues, on the gates and in the choir. Made of silver or golden bronze, most of them can be opened and contain a votive prayer. The most remarkable is the one given by the Marist Fathers. It was placed on the altarpiece right above the Virgin Mary’s head in 1836 and remained there until around 1990. It contains a balled-up silk ribbon where the names of the Fathers of the Society of Mary gone on mission to Polynesia are written with ink.
Slabs of marble are a reminder of the saints and founders who came to pray and be enlightened about their vocation and desire of foundation such as St Thérèse Couderc who established the Cenacle of Ignatian spirituality, St Claudine Thévenet, founder of the Congregation of Sisters of Jesus and Mary aiming at teaching poor young girls how to weave. Also Mrs Garnier, who initiated the charitable organisation called œuvre du Calvaire for disadvantaged and incurable sick people. On 22nd July 1816, Fr. Jean-Claude Collin and Fr. Marcellin Champagnat entrusted to the Virgin Mary their plan of establishing two institutes: the Society of Mary and the Little Brothers of Mary. Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésilliac came to establish the Society of African Missions in Lyons. In 1821, Fr. André Coindre founded the Brothers of the Sacred Heart; in 1833, Louis Querbes the clerics of Saint Viator and the Marist Julien Eymard, the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Gabriel Taborin and Marie Rivier followed them. Other slabs show the visit of Don Bosco on 8th April 1883, of Thérèse Martin and the conversion of the poet Xavier de Fourvières (sic), a Premonstratensian.