The History of Fourvière
Origin of the Name
Fourvière Hill, overlooking the French city of Lyon, was originally the location of the old Roman Forum, or ‘Forum Vetus’. As early as 1168, a Christian chapel was built on the hill, which had already become a Marian shrine. Fourvière has been called ‘the hill that prays’ (‘la colline qui prie’), or ‘the mystical hill’, because of the churches and religious communities that are present there.
The first Christian community of the Gauls was established in Lyon, where the proto-martyrs of the French Church were put to death. Among them were Saint Pothin, first bishop of Lyon, and his companions. His successor was Saint Irenaeus, disciple of Saint Polycarp, who was a disciple of St John the Evangelist.
The Oceania Mission
Twenty years after the founding of the Marist order, in October 1836, Bishop Pompallier had a novena of Masses offered in the same church before the departure of the first missionaries for Oceania. On the last day of the novena, Fr Peter Chanel SM, the future proto-martyr of Oceania, hung a heart-shaped pendant on the Statue of Our Lady containing the names of the departing missionaries.
Suzanne Aubert was another missionary to New Zealand whose spiritual home was the sanctuary of Fourvière. Her mother, Clarice, had been diagnosed with cancer in 1845 and was miraculously cured at the shrine of Fourvière.
Fourvière, then, is the cradle of the Oceania mission, a mission that the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fourvière in Leithfield, New Zealand is set to continue.