15th August / 8th September / 8th December
For Christians but also for all people living in Lyons, Fourvière is a place of protection, help, prayer and conversion.
Throughout the year, pilgrims walk up to Fourvière, to entrust to Mary their prayer intentions, to take some time alone, to go to mass or confession. With its history, the basilica symbolises the faith of the Lyonnais. The different Catholic communities of the city gather in the crypt around “their Lady” (Our Lady of Czestochowa, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Gyor, Our Lady of Velankani). The Basilica is the meeting place between the City and the Church.
Three big Marian feasts give the life of the sanctuary its tempo:
15th AUGUST: FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION OF OUR LADY
15th August: feast of the Assumption of Our Lady
It is the feast commemorating Mary entering the fullness of eternal life. For Catholics, the life of God’s mother symbolises the Christian ideal. She is like a model. Because she was very close to her son, she is also the mother of all men, considerate to each one of them. This is why Christians like to invoke her and know that she listens to them.
8th SEPTEMBER: FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF THE VIRGIN MARY
8th September: feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary
In the first half of the 17th century, the plague struck Lyons. In 1643, in the face of this scourge, the aldermen, in charge of the city, promised to go on pilgrimage to Fourvière every year, to attend mass there and to offer a golden crown and a votive candle if Lyons was spared. Shortly afterwards, the extent of the plague diminished and their vow was granted.
Since then, on 8th September every year, the mayor of Lyons and the councillors go to Fourvière to perpetuate this promise and the archbishop blesses the city with the Blessed Sacrament from the balcony of the Basilica. This blessing is announced by three cannon blasts.
8th DECEMBER: FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
8th December: feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary
On 8th December, Catholics celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. On that day, the people of Lyons also commemorate the day when the golden statue of Our Lady was placed on top of the Basilica in 1852. The inauguration was postponed because of a violent storm: the fireworks organised for the occasion were flooded and had to be cancelled. However, after the weather eased down, the Lyonnais lit up the city spontaneously by putting lanterns on their windowsills. This improvised celebration took on a special radiance two years later, when the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed. To this day, a big procession from St John’s Cathedral to Fourvière takes place every year on 8th December and, at nightfall, Catholics light up their windows with small candles. For a few years, the City of Lyons has been organising the event “fête des lumières” (feast of lights) which attracts 4 million people during four days.