Fourvière Basilica, Lyon


My friend Solange invited us to the city of Lyon as guests. The famous Basilica of Lyon held a shrine to La Vierge Noire. It is fascinating to note that this great cathedral had been built over an ancient temple to the Goddess Aphrodite.
Two of the great rivers of France were at the very heart of the city: the river Rhone and Saone. They flowed together side by side. The ancients believed when two rivers meet, this is a place of power.
Lyon’s older name was Lugdunum. During the ancient times it was the capital of Gaul. It was named after the Celtic God Lug. Lug was the honored God of the first grains that were harvested. His celebration was on August 1, at Lammas (loaf mass). Later the city became a part of the Roman Empire. Lyon became an intersection where the great roads of Rome met. Here the Romans built aqueducts, public baths, forums and theaters. Lyon was the ancient city dedicated to the Goddess Cybele.
The Mother Goddess Cybele can be traced back to Neolithic, matriarchal cultures. She was worshipped as a black stone. The Romans called her Magna Mater. This connects her with the Wouivre Currents. Stones often marked the Wouivre Current’s distribution of the fertility energy for the health of animals, plants and man. These stones were called Menhirs. The hot magma deep in the earth and how it shaped the landscape as rock ridges – that is also part of these Wouivre Currents. These are the same type of rock ridges that I have pointed out as dragons in the land.
The roots of the word Cybele is linked with the words crypt, cave, dome and head. The cubic Black Stone in Mecca may have its origin with this Neolithic Goddess. Her animal familiar was the great lion, which is one of the symbols used to this day in Lyon. The Romans introduced Cybele into Gaul. She blended with the Gaul’s own divinities that oversaw victory, fertility and water.
In the evening we partook of a light evening meal with Solange and family. Then we retired for the night. The next morning Andreas, Olivier and I made our way through Lyon’s metro system to arrive before the city’s greatest basilica. I stood outside in the pouring rain. The beauty of this basilica struck me deeply. Integrated into the cathedral’s architecture was one statue after another. It was intensely beautiful. My eyes rested transfixed upon these angelic presences that seemed more like Ancient Priestesses, transformed into an acceptable form for Christianity.
The Fourvière Basilica was built in 1896. The Virgin Mary was chosen in 1643 as the patron saint of Lyon. The ancient Goddess Cybele now was being replaced by Mary, who held the position of incorporating many of the ancient Goddesses under her veil. The building of the Basilica was a way of honoring Mary the Virgin as the Patron Saint of Lyon. The Fourvière Basilica has been given the nickname The Upside-Down Elephant, since the four towers of the cathedral look like the legs of an elephant.
We walked down into the Crypt that would be considered the womb and often the tomb of the Church. But the beauty of this Crypt was nothing like I had seen before. Many aspects of the Virgin Mary were lined up along one side of the crypt. I paid my respects to Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of India, and The Black Madonna of Poland. I walked by the different expressions of Mary, feeling the devotion to each aspect that had touched my life one time or another.
But as I walked closer to the main altar, the beauty of the womb-shaped mosaic shrine that unfolded before me was breathtaking! The center of this mosaic masterpiece was a white dove, trimmed in gold. The walls of the inner shrine were completely covered in tiny tiles of blue and many heavenly hues that were so pleasant to look upon.
Then, all of a sudden, I realized this was the womb of Aphrodite. We were on the ground floor of the Basilica. The cathedral was built over the foundations of the Temple of the Love Goddess. No wonder this crypt reflected such beauty and creativity. The white dove that was the symbol of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Trinity before was the symbol of Venus or Aphrodite. The legend of Lyon says that the Roman forum crumbled in 840 and the church of the Virgin was built over the Temple of Venus.
I walked up the stairs and out of the crypt. I entered through the door that was on the right side of the main entrance of the Basilica. There, above the altar was the Virgin of Fourvière in all her beautiful blackness. No one really knows how old this statue is. From a passing tour guide we heard that the virgin was once white and with age she turned black. I do not believe this to be true. It is an excuse of the church to cover up their embarrassment over the high number of black Madonnas, which originally were Pagan deities.
The room was silent with many people fervently praying to the Black Virgin before me. It felt I was in a place where people were truly suffering under the yoke of life. They had come to find relief at the feet of this Virgin.
I then went into the main altar room of the cathedral. There was a wall-to-wall mosaic, depicting historical events that took place in France. The mastery of the mosaic was so beautiful that it actually brought tears to my eyes to be before such beauty made by human hands.

My father used to create mosaic murals for a living when I was a child. This art form was close to my heart. The mural that caught my eye was one of Joan of Arc. She also was a worshipper of the Black Madonna. She prayed daily at her shrine before going into battle. The mural showed Joan receiving visions of Mary as a young girl. There was an image of her on horseback in front of Notre Dame in Paris with her army. The last image was that of her death.
Joan of Arc led the armies of France into battle. She was a warrior maiden whose reward in the end was to be turned over to England and burnt at the stake. This was the fate of so many women during that time, to be burnt by the church. Joan of Arc later was resurrected as a saint.
The Fourvière Basilica for me is one of the masterpieces of France. It is well worth the effort to visit.

Categories: Sacred PlacesTags: , , ,

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