May 15

Notre-Dame-du-Port, Clermont-Ferrand, Puy de Dôme, Auvergne, France

Clermont-Ferrand is located on a plain in the volcanic region of central France. Unlike most hub cities, it is not on a body of water. And yet for a thousand years Clermont's eastern district has been known as the Port. In the crypt of its Romanesque church of Our Lady of the Port, dating to the early 1100s, is an unusual Black Virgin, a polychromed walnut statue just under a foot high. This long-revered image is a copy made around 1800 of a statue from the 1200s, which was held to be a copy of an even earlier image--possibly going back to the shrine's foundation by St. Avit in the 500s, or possibly a copy of a Byzantine icon brought by returning Crusaders. Mary cradles the child against her cheek, as in Eleusa or Tenderness icons such as the pre-Iconoclastic Glykophilousa of Mt. Athos; the Virgin of Vladimir, sent from Constantinople to Kiev in 1131; and Notre-Dame de Grâce, given in 1450 to Cambrai Cathedral in northern France.  

In 1614, snow and bitter cold enveloped the area without stopping from Martinmas (Nov. 11) to Easter. By May, there were still no buds and no grass; famine loomed. The leaders and priests conferred. They asked the Chapter to bring out the image of Our Lady of the Port from the collegiate church. The four-hour procession took place on the morning of Ascension Day, May 15, 1614. Some 8,000 people followed the holy image and relics of saints around the city walls, chanting litanies. The next day, the weather grew milder, and in the following days, truly beautiful. To the joy of all, the harvests were excellent that summer and even more abundant the next year. The new bishop, Joachim d'Estaing, ordered an inquiry among the town notables May 6, 1616, after which he issued an ordinance declaring that the feast of Notre-Dame du Port would take place on May 15 in the parish and be observed as a day of rest. 

The statue was crowned in 1875, and on May 15, 1881, Pope Leo XII declared the church a Minor Basilica. The procession of the first Sunday after May 15 remains lively. 

(Information from Diocèse du Clermont, catholique-clermont.cef.fr, Ville de Clermont-Ferrand, www.ville-clermont-ferrand.fr, and other sources. Picture from "Black Madonna Medal Collections Vintage Medals Part 1," eBay Canada Guides, reviews.ebay.ca.)

Also commemorated this date:
bulletOur Lady of the Harvest, Maronite Catholic Church
bulletNotre-Dame de Bon Secours, Bouret-sur-Canche, Pas-de-Calais, France (Our Lady of Good Help). Procession to chapel.
bulletNotre-Dame de Grâce, Cambrai, Nord, France. The fête celebrated on the nearest Saturday commemorates the icon's crowning in 1894.
bulletNotre-Dame du Bocage, Le Reculey, Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France. Former pilgrimage to 1800s votive chapel.
bulletNotre-Dame de Birlingen, Steinbach, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. Rebuilt chapel blessed, 1932. Masses on Thursdays in May.
bulletNotre-Dame-du-Bon-Remède, Tarascon, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, France (Notre Dame de Frigolet)
bulletMuttergottes auf dem Schönenberg, Ellwangen, Ostalbkreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Hilltop church consecrated, 1729. Main pilgrimage Aug. 15. Pilgrimage of displaced Catholics, last Sunday in May.
bulletGua Maria Lourdes, Burongkong, Mendalam, Putussibau, Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Grotto inaugurated, 2005. 
bulletMadonna del Pozzo, San Salvatore Monferrato, Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy (Madonna of the Well)
bulletMedaglia dei Consacrati alla Madonna, Venice, Italy. Apparition to Sister Clara Scarabelli, 1950.
bulletMadonna delle Grazie di Montenero, Livorno, Tuscany, Italy. Painting found, 1345.
bulletMadonna del Fiore, Acquapendente, Viterbo, Latium, Italy (Our Lady of the Flower). Festa features mosaic panels made of flowers.
bulletMadonna di Galloro, Ariccia, Roma, Latium, Italy. Festa on Pentecost commemorates church consecration May 15, 1633.
bulletMatka Boska Fatimska, Borki, Dąbrowa, Lesser Poland, Poland. Statue donated by Pope John Paul II installed in parish church, 1983. Feast May 13.
bulletVirgen de la Esclavitud, Cihuri, La Rioja, Spain. Romería to apparition site, returning with statues of the Virgin and St. Isidore.
bulletVirgen del Rosario, Cirueña, La Rioja, Spain. Seated Gothic statue is caried to the chapel of the Virgin of Remedies. Fiesta Sept. 8.
bulletVirgen de las Candelas, Herramélluri, La Rioja, Spain. Procession to the Virgin of Power chapel; blessing of the fields with statue.
bulletVirgen Peregrina, Leiva, La Rioja, Spain (Pilgrim Virgin). After mass in rural chapel, statues are carried to parish church.
bulletNuestra Señora de Legarda, Ochanduri, La Rioja, Spain. Image translated to parish church May 15, returned to chapel Sept. 9.
bulletVirgen de la Peña, Jaca, Huesca, Aragon, Spain, Ascara district (Virgin of the Crag). Romería on nearest Saturday.
bulletVirgen de Foces, Ibieca, Huesca, Aragón, Spain. Statue is carried from rural chapel to town church, blessing fields along the way. 
bulletVirgen del Rosario, Biota, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain
bulletMare de Deu de Les Salines, Maçanet de Cabrenys, Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Pilgrimages Sun. after May 15 & 1st. Sun. in Aug.
bulletVirgen de la Monjía, Novés, Toledo, Castilla La Mancha, Spain. Romería.
bulletNuestra Señora de la Paz, Ronda, Málaga, Andalucía, Spain (Our Lady of Peace). Town patron. Statue crowned, 1947. 
 

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly