July 30: Our Lady de Gray, France (1602)
The shrine of Notre-Dame de Gray, or Our Lady of Gray, is located near Besancon in Northern France near Franche-Comte. The statue of Our Lady of Gray is made of an oak tree from Montaigu, has a black color, and is only 14.5 centimeters tall. It is much honored in the country, and there are many miracles and graces granted to petitioners that are attributed to Our Lady’s intercession at this shrine.
It is estimated that about five centuries ago, on a hill near Montaigu, a pious person placed a small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary upon an old oak tree. The tree itself is believed to date from the time of the Druids, and crested one of the hills in the diocese of Malines. Soon the faithful began to come in crowds from throughout the region, for there were miraculous healings and various miracles granted to the pilgrims who invoked Mary under the name of Our Lady of the Oak.
In the year 1602 a small wooden chapel was built on the hill of Montaigu. The oak upon which the statue of Our Lady had once been displayed was now cut up into small pieces and carved by a local craftsman into statuettes of the same image. These statues were presented as a mark of respect to patrons of the shrine. Even the wood of the oak was considered almost a precious relic, for it had once touched the miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin.
Wherever they went these figures were enshrined with honor and it seemed as if Our Lady of Montaigu sent her favor, for her miraculous power went with them.
In the year 1613 a poor, seventy year old widow named Jeanne Bonnet de Salins made a pilgrimage to the shrine. She obtained a piece of the venerable old oak, and took it to a sculptor named Jean Brange to carve into a statue similar to that of the original. On April 4, 1613, the Archbishop of Besancon blessed the statue and allowed it to be exhibited for public veneration.
It is reported that Jeanne Bonnet was rewarded by signal graces she obtained through Our Lady’s intercession. She intended to give the statue to a local church, but in 1616 yielded to the repeated entreaties of Father Gabriel Appremont, who wanted to have the image for the Capuchins of Gray. A special chapel was richly decorated to receive it. The news soon spread in the region of Gray and the faithful flocked to pay their respects to the new Madonna, Our Lady of Gray.
The statue of Our Lady of Gray holds in her right hand a gleaming scepter of gold that a parishioner donated in the year 1807. It was at this time that the chapel was undergoing reconstruction after the ravages of the French Revolution. There are also three semi-precious stones set in the front of the base of the statue that we given by grateful petitioners to the Blessed Virgin. Finally, the two gold crowns were created in 1909 on the occasion of the celebration of the coronation of the statue of Our Lady of Gray.
*from The Woman in Orbit and other sources
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