Our Lady of the Tables
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Tables is intimately linked to the history of the city of Montpellier. It is located on the outskirts of town at Montpellier, France. The shrine is said to have taken its name from the many tables of merchants and money changers who stood about the church in the Middle Ages, for the church was a stopping point for pilgrims to pray while on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
There once stood at this site a very ancient, renowned church containing a shrine of Mary – the Blessed Virgin Mary holding her Son in her arms, extended over the city, so to say. She stood upon a byzantine pedestal or table, and was fondly called the “arm of the city of Montpellier.” In 1198, there were a series of miracles connected to devotion to the statue and attributed to Our Lady. The feast dates from the ninth century, and is annually celebrated on January 20. The final destruction of the ancient church of Our Lady of the Tables, built in 1230 and known as Arms of the City of Montpelier, occurred during the French Revolution, and now only the wreck of the crypt and burial vaults remain.
This statue housed at the shrine was a famous statue of black wood – Notre-Dame-des-Tables. In an attempt to preserve it during the Protestant uprisings the icon was hidden for a long time within a silver statue of the Blessed Virgin, life-size, and screened from the public view. It was stolen by the Calvinists and has since disappeared from history.
The original church was destroyed by the revolutionaries, but the current basilica was begun after the French Revolution had ended and the cult transferred to a Jesuit chapel. The Jesuit church of Montpellier, Notre Dame des Tables, was begun in 1707. Although the statue has disappeared, the people of Montpellier believe Mary still extends her arms over the children of the city, as mentioned above. Her arms of love wield miraculous power, for she is the Mother of God.