Our Lady of La Dreche

Here’s the amazing story of a miraculous statue in La Dreche, France, and how it survived the Albigensians, countless wars, the Huguenots, and the French Revolution.

The statue (less than three feet tall) was associated with a twelfth century apparition to some local shepherds. They saw the statue of Mary sitting in a bush, with some kind of monk or religious kneeling before it. They would see him when far away, but he disappeared whenever they came close. The statue remained in the bush. After discussing it and calling in the neighbors (who also saw the religious when far away and saw him vanish when they approached), they called in the local priest to see the miracle.

The priest brought the statue back to the village church in a procession. Everybody was happy.

The next day, it was back in the bush.

Puzzled, the priest and villagers went and got the statue again.

The next day, it was back in the bush.

At this point, the priest and villagers decided that they were supposed to build a church on the site, and the landowner donated the valley of La Dreche.

The statue has been there ever since (except for some time hidden under a bed and under a fig tree during the French Revolution), and many pilgrims have gone there in hope of miraculous healing. Our Lady of La Dreche is also known as “Health of the Sick.” The big feast of the parish is Sept. 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but other Marian feasts are also good times to visit.

The current church was built in the 19th century. At about the same time, the statue was restored with some new wood at parts that had fallen off or been damaged. The statue had been a “black virgin” for centuries, but the restorers also decided that they should repaint the statue. So we don’t know how it originally looked.

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