Tuesday, September 30, 2014

France: Searching for Mary Magdalene in Vezelay

Vezelay is a city on a rock that rises from the valley below. It is one of the four cities from which the route to Santiago de Compostela begins in France. It was from Vezelay that St Bernard called for the Second Crusade and it was in Vezelay that Richard the Lionhearted and King Philippe Auguste met to go on the Third Crusade. But the main claim to fame of Vezelay is the Basilica of St Madeleine.

We being the stellar citizens that we are parked at the bottom of the hill as requested by the signs. We then proceeded to follow the pilgrim's route up the steep streets leading to the Basilica. In January most of the stores lining the streets were closed but I can imagine what it must be like in the summer. Then as we finally arrived at the Basilica we were greeted by the parking lot in front of it. They got us again. We could have driven right up. 

The original religious foundation at this location began in the 9th century. It has undergone many changes and much destruction over the centuries. The Huguenots in the 16th century and then the Revolution had brought the building almost to the point of collapse. Violet le Luc finally took responsibility for its rebuilding in the mid 19th century. Today, it is a lovely church that will take your breath away with its beauty and its location.


Must-sees here include the relics that claim to be St Mary Magdalene. They are what made this Basilica famous in the Middle Ages and still do so today. The relics are in a golden box behind a grill.

You also must check out the capitals. They are fantastic and we spent a good amount of time trying to locate the different ones we found in our guidebook. There is a beautiful one of Adam and Eve with the tree and serpent and another one of Noah building the ark. Almost 100 bible stories are represented and the guidebook documents each one. Finding them is the fun.

Adoration was going on in a small chapel and we joined the nun who was there for prayer. A new monastic community has taken charge of the spiritual life of the Basilica.

An honor box is offered to pay for the guidebooks but no gift shop is located in the Basilica. A small gift store is offered right across the street and we made a short stop there. Take your time to enjoy the view from here, it is wonderful.

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