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Unaffected by vertigo, these statues of Mary stand upright at the top of hills and mountains with amazing views across France. The Mont-Blanc massif alone boasts seven statues of the Virgin Mary. Last June, two mountain guides climbed all seven peaks to pay them a visit — an athletic and spiritual challenge in itself.
Weathering wind, rain, snow, and tides
These statues, carried to their lofty homes on people’s backs in expedition-processions, are as impressive as they are reassuring. Most of these statues date from the 19th century, the heyday of Marian devotion in France. Made of cast iron, bronze, stainless steel, the Virgins are repainted every five or 10 years. They are undaunted by lightning, silence, or solitude.
They have been placed there for many reasons. Some are simply a sign of devotion; others are the fulfillment of a promise, a gesture of thanksgiving for a cure, for having escaped a storm, or for returning safely from war or deportation.
Some have become places of pilgrimage, such as Bavella in Corsica or Biakorri in the Pyrenees. With the rise of tourism, they are used as departure points for excursions or as hiking destinations. Subjected to harsh forces of nature and of mankind, including vandalism, these statues of Mary on high places continue to keep watch, accompanying our joys and struggles… “Stabat Mater!”