Jibstay

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Le Puy-en-Velay


Le Puy-en-Velay is about 400 km from where we stay, north by north east into the mountains. The church has ancient origins, from the 4th century is was a site of devotion to the Virgin. In the 7th century it was designated as the seat of the bishop. And beginning in the 11th century it became a beginning location for pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.
What distinguishes this church is its Black Virign statue; a 3-4 foot high statue of the Virgin Mary totally black; either due to fire or its dark wood (I could not find out). The city of Le Puy is built in a volcanic basin on three basalt rocks on which are built a church, and a chapel to the Virgin.
The interesting distinctive about Le Puy is the construction material; white sandstone, dark volcanic rock and a red rock, that looks almost painted. The cloister next to the church is a prime example of this multi-colored construction.
The cloister is a great example of the prayerful purpose of a cloister. We came during a heavy rain, that further enhanced its protective shelter. The wings were covered and provided many sitting areas for reading, reflection or prayer. The center was cruciform in shape (reminding those of Christ’s cross) and at the center is a well/fountain. Water is the center-piece of almost every cloister: reminding us of the water of life, the Garden of Eden, Exodus, Jordan, baptism, the Samaritan woman at the well, the River of Life in Revelation. This is one of the reasons why I am so interested in seeing a fountain/baptistry included in a prayer garden at MCC.
The last notable thing about Le Puy is Sister Kathleen-Patrice from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Montecito (and one of the very active voices for M-4). Sister Kathleen-Patrice’s order of nuns has its headquarters in Le Puy (though we could not find it). Its beginnings were as an order of compassion for women who were abused and forced to sell themselves into prostitution. This order of nuns took the women off the street, gave them safe housing and taught them a new trade as a substitute for their old trade: fine needlework. So all over Le Puy are stores that sell very fine Le Puy lace and embroidery, originally made by former prostitutes now serving the Lord.

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