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Notre-Dame du Château, Tarascon, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

Commemorated on First Sunday Feast of the Ascension
Notre-Dame du Château, Tarascon, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
The statue of Our Lady first came to Tarascon around 1348, carried by pilgrims from Vallouise in the Briançon region, some 200 miles northeast, who came to give thanks to St. Martha at her tomb for surviving the plague. The people of Tarascon called the statue "La Belle Briançonne," the Beauty of Briançon. Two years later, Waldensian dissenters attacked the Briançon area, destroying churches, images, and sacred objects. Imbert, the hermit in charge of the Virgin's statue, fled with it from Vallouise to Tarascon, where he settled with it in a small chapel adjacent to the castle on the Rhône River. La Belle Briançonne soon became known as Our Lady of the Castle, as pilgrims flocked to the chapel along the road through the Jewish quarter. By 1420, devotional traffic so impacted the Jews of Tarascon that they offered to pay to have Our Lady of the Castle moved to a new location. The Catholics agreed, and ever since the beloved image has resided at a chapel five miles east of Tarascon in the Alpilles range, near the village of Saint Etienne du Grès. That is the story as told by the church and town of Tarascon (picture source,;, although the Alpilles chapel has been dated to the 1100s, and there is some evidence that devotion to Our Lady of the Castle is also that old (see "Alpilles," Randomania blog,, although the statue does not appear to be. On the fifth Sunday after Easter - the Sunday before Ascension Thursday - the Confraternity of Priors of Our Lady of the Castle sponsors a pilgrimage to the sanctuary. They carry the statue to the Royal Collegiate Church of St. Martha in Tarascon, where it stays 40 days, dressed daily in a new gown, and taken down from the altar on Saturdays so the faithful can hold it. On the 41st day the statue returns to the mountain chapel.   



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