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

Commemorated on 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,, Ville de Clermont-Ferrand,, and other sources. Picture from "Black Madonna Medal Collections Vintage Medals Part 1," eBay Canada Guides,




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