Chapelle de Notre-Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse-RELICS

Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Every year, thousands of faithful Christians from all over the world come to pray at the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal.

They come to find hope, pray for redemption, or seek miraculous healing. But the medal has also attracted legions of curious people, researchers fromrelics and lovers of strange religious iconography.

The religious significance of the medal is due to impromptu visits by the Virgin Mary in 1830, the first and last ever recorded in the French capital. The two Marian apparitions were observed by Catherine Laboure, a young country nun newly registered with the Daughters of Charity after a dream visit from Saint Vincent de Paul.

On Saturday, November 28, 1830, Catherine confided to her chaplain that the evening before, while meditating in the church, she was interrupted by unusual "silk rustles" coming from the ambo - a raised platform leading to the holy doors of a church.

When she turned around to see where these noises were coming from, the Virgin Mary surprised her by standing in the air, surrounded by an oval frame, wearing an "auroral white silk robe" and standing on a floating globe. As Catherine reported, the apparition, like a technicolor light show, transformed into a changing composition of sacred hearts, symbols of immaculate conception, rotating neon-colored circles, shining stars and holy crosses...

The Blessed Virgin asked that the painting be the model of a medallion that will bring "great graces" to those who wear it. The oblong medallion was then commissioned by the Church from French goldsmith Adrien Vachette, and two years after Mary's surprising request, the miraculous medallion became popular, converting laymen and producing miracles. One of the miracles it performed was for the treasury of the Church by being the best-selling derivative product of the catalog of religious insignia.

One could call the medal a sacrilegious commercial success: millions of copies are made and sold each year in church gift shops, and sometimes in vending machines. No pilgrim who visits the chapel leaves without his silver souvenir. The craze for this medal became such that the Church one day felt the need to specify that the Miraculous Medal was neither a trinket nor a lucky charm, but a sacred object.

Getting to the chapel is also a very unusual walk. The sanctuary, always crowded, is brilliantly decorated in blue, white and gold, colors of the Virgin Mary.

It contains manyrelics unusual: a comfortable armchair where the Madonna, no doubt exhausted, sat and chatted for two hours with Catherine during her first appearance. Next to the flamboyant effigy of the Blessed Virgin, one can see two glass vaults flanking the choir and containing the "incorruptible remains" of Saint Catherine Laboure and Louise de Marillac, founder of the Daughters of Charity.

The two remains - or what remains of them, probably skeletons - are covered with wax representations of the saints and dressed in their period nuns' clothes.

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