In 1848, the chapel’s old bell tower lost its turret, called “the needle”. The architect Duboys designed the bell tower’s reconstruction. However, his design wasn’t much appreciated. The decision was made to put a statue of the Virgin on top of the new bell tower. Joseph-Hugues Fabisch won the competition and made the Virgin statue in golden bronze. It is 5.60 meters high (18 ft).
This huge statue should have been erected on the 8th of September 1852 but a rise of the Saone River resulted in flooding of the foundry workshop, so the inauguration was postponed. Eventually the golden statue of the Virgin was inaugurated on the 8th of December.
Huge celebrations were planned, but the fireworks were cancelled due to bad weather. When the bad weather lifted, the inhabitants of Lyon spontaneously lit up the city by placing lights on their window-sills. Two years later, this improvised festival took on a life of its own when the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed.
Today, a large procession takes place every December 8th, from Saint Jean to Fourvière. At dusk, Catholics light up their windows with candles. For several years the city of Lyon has organised the “Festival of Lights” which brings together two million people in Lyon for four days of festivities.
The golden Virgin weighs more than 3 tons. The hands of the Virgin have been overproportioned so they can be seen from the bottom of the hill.
The 4th vow of the people from Lyon
In 1870, the Prussians were invading France. So, a hundred ladies met the archbishop, his Eminence Ginoulhiac and made a vow, in Our Lady of Fourviere, praying to free the country and to protect Lyon. The archbishop promised the construction of a new sanctuary if the city was spared. The vow was fulfilled, the Prussians were arrested in Nuits-Saint-Georges and the Francfort treaty was signed on the 1st of March 1871. The first stone of the votive church Our Lady of Fourviere was laid in 1872.
Even today, a great procession which goes from Saint Jean to Fourvière takes place every December 8th and, at nightfall, Catholics illuminate their windows with candlesticks. For several years, the city of Lyon organized at this time the “Festival of Lights”, which brings together 2 million people in Lyon for four days.