- Lady Of Lourdes Shrine, Villianur - Pondicherry
In 1867, the MEP missionaries in Puducherry wished to build a Chapel at Villianur which is 13 kilometers from Pondicherry, on the road to Villupuram. Hence they bought a piece of land at Villianur and Rev.Fr.Gou, then procurator of the Puducherry mission after a long negotiation with the Hindu temple authorities of Thirukameswarer Gogilambigai Temple started to build a Chapel at Kanuvapet on the outskirts of Villianur. It is said that the building of the church was sponsored by the thanksgiving offering of Dr.Lephine's family for the miraculous cure of his daughter.
It took 10 years to complete the Chapel. And Rev.Fr.Tarbes a cousin brother of St. Bernadette, the visionary of Lourdes, was appointed as the Parish Priest of Villianur mission. Since he had a direct report of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, this chapel is the first in the world to be named after Our Lady of Lourdes outside Lourdes, France.
A parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes commissioned a six foot tall statue for the site, which arrived in Puducherry on 4 April 1877. The box containing the statue was dropped three times on the way to the Cathedral, but arrived intact, and was sent on to Villianur.
The statue was claimed to be associated with a number of miracles in the late nineteenth century. In 1885 the archbishop Laouënan went to Rome and provided a report of the alleged miracles that took place at the shrine to Pope Leo XIII. The archbishop received permission on 21 February 1886 to declare the site an official Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, and to canonically crown the statue.
There was a natural pond in front of the chapel. it was once used as the water reservoir for the irrigation of the lands around and water came from the big Ousteri Lake which is 10 km away from here. And this pond was constructed by Fr. Lesbond, the Parish Priest, with donations from Zigon organized by Mr. Lesage. Mr. Larocgue from the people in Zigon got a statue from Lourdes and in 1924 and a solemn ceremony took place to install the statue in the middle of the sacred pond after the due consecration of the statue and the pond.
It is believed by the people here that the pond water is miracles and has the ability to cure the sick and bring good fortune. This is the only Catholic church in Asia having a sacred pond in front of the church.
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Source : Lady of Lourdes Shrine
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