Basilique Saint-Jean Francois-Regis

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5/5

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Date of travel

2012

Basilica Saint-Jean-François-Régis is a massive and very splendid neo-Byzantine building with different coloured stones used to pick out the arches and darker pillars framing the windows. There are two towers at the west end with spires and pinnacles and a low dome above the transept with a cupola.

This is the third building on the site. The first church was too small for the number of pilgrims. Its replacement was destroyed during the Revolution. Building began in 1865 and took 12 years to complete. The spires were added in 1900. The six ton bell needed 6 oxen to pull it to the church and can be heard 20km away.

Jean-François-Régis was a Jesuit missionary priest travelling through the region of Vivaris, Cévannes and Velay, an area ravaged by religious wars. His simple and direct preaching style appealed to the uneducated peasantry and he made many conversions. He worked with the needy and prostitutes. He encouraged the development of the lace industry and championed the cause of the lace makers. He died in 1640 in Lalvousec and was buried in the church, which became a place of pilgrimage. He was beatified in the 18thC.

Entry is up steps to the west door. This is set back in a porch with an arch of alternating bands of black and white stone. Above is a frieze with pillars and arches and three carved figures.

The inside of the west door is carved and has brown pillars on either side. Above is a black and white stone arch with an angel at the top. Inside this is a huge building and almost over the top with all the decoration. Huge marble pillars in the nave have carved bases and tops. The nave arches are elaborately carved. The ornate vaulted ceiling has carved bosses.

At the end of the north aisle is a statue of the Virgin dressed in black with the Christ child standing on a pedestal. At the end of the south aisle is a beautiful metal and enamel reliquary box containing the bones of St Regis, with a gilt statue of him on the wall above. The stained glass windows tell the story of his life.

The circular transept is huge with a mosaic floor and very simple stone slab altar on a cylindrical base. It is surrounded by four big dark marble pillars with gold eagles on the tops. The carved arches are decorated with gold. Religious scenes are painted on the walls. The dome above with a cupola is decorated with paintings of angels.

The south transept has an elaborate altar with a carving of the Sacre Coeur on the base and a statue of Christ with the Sacre Coeur on his chest. The altar in the north transept has the chi-rho sign on the base with a very decorative host box with doves on either side and a statue of St Ann above.

There is a crucifix hanging from the chancel arch. This has wooden choir stalls and a modern host box of inlaid wood at the back. Arches supported by black or brown marble pillars are highly carved and picked out in gold. Above, three round brown marble marble pillars support small carved arches. Walls are decorated with paintings telling the history of pilgrimage to the site.

In a small building near the Basilica is a small museum devoted to the life of St Regis with a series of dioramas about his life and work.

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