The Basilica overlooks the old town of Lyon and can be reached by one of the funicular railways. It was built between 1872 and 1896 on a location that had been dedicated to the Virgin Mary since the twelfth century. The prompt for its construction was apparently celebration of the fact that the Prussian army in the 1870 Franco-Prussian war stopped its advance before reaching Lyon, this was attributed to intercession by the Virgin Mary. This was a great place to do some A111 revision on the stories linked to Mary, the mother of Jesus and to aspects of the practices associated with her in the Catholic faith.
A major feature of the upper section of the Basilica are giant mosaics all linked to the story of the Virgin Mary.
The Council of Ephesus (431 CE) The central question of this early Christian debate was around the human and/or divine nature of Jesus. Was Mary Christotokos (giving birth to Christ, a man), or Theotokos (giving birth to God)? 'Theotokos' won out and Mary was increasingly referred to as the Mother of God. Another bit of Marian mythology in the mosaic shows an angel (top row, two-thirds along from the left) carrying the house of her birth from Nazareth, via a few other sites, to its final resting place in Loreto, Italy - where it sits inside the Basilica della Santa Casa.
The Battle of Lepanto (1571 CE) This is Mary in warrior-mode, leading the defeat of the Ottoman fleet at the naval battle of Lepanto off the coast of Greece. Central to her intercession in this victory were prayers said to the Rosary, which the Pope is holding up. This event was a key step in bringing the Rosary into the fold of Roman Catholic religious practice.
Proclamation of the Immaculate Conception (1854) This mosaic commemorates the point when Pope Pius IX officially declares the immaculate conception of Mary as part of the official dogma of the Roman Catholic church. Sinless in life, and now deemed to have been conceived without sin.
The lower part of the Basilica is a large crypt dedicated to St Joseph and in its own words 'welcoming Virgins from all over the world'.
The walls are covered with ex-voto commemorations, recording both donations and answered prayers. There are multiple side chapels around the crypt occupied by copies of Virgins from key pilgrimage locations around the globe.
Our Lady of China, Our Lady of Lebanon, Our Lady of Africa
The Weeping Virgin of Gyor (Hungary), Our Lady of Good Health of Velankanni (India), Our Lady of Czestochova (Poland)
Our Lady of Fatima (Portugal), Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico), Our Lady of Aperecida (Brazil)
Our Lady of Loretto (Italy), Our Lady of 'La Naval' (Manila)