OUR LADY OF PONTOISE
December 28th is the feast of Our Lady of Pontoise.
Pontoise is an old town in France, built around a bridge across the Oise; and its shrine dates from some time before the 13th Century; though its exact beginnings are lost in legend.
The statue of Our lady of Pontoise is of marble, and was, according to the legend, carved by a pious youth in the quarry at Blangis, near Abbeville and brought to Pontoise. In 1226 it was made a parish church, and the statue was placed outside, over the main entrance. It was visited by the saint-king, Louis XI; and did not figure greatly in history until after 1431 when it was destroyed by the English.
From this time on, the shrine had a violent history. The English, who were at that time still militantly Catholic determined to rebuild the shrine they had destroyed. It was partly finished when the French reconquered the territory. They finished the rebuilding in 1884.
During the years of 1580 and 1650, when the plague was destroying the country, people flocked to Our Lady of Pontoise and the danger was averted. Again in 1849 a cholera epidemic was averted through her intercession, so that the shrine had the name of being powerful against plagues.
In Reformation times a Protestant tried to steal the statue and failing that, knocked off the head of the Infant and threw it into the river. A fisherman had spread his nets just below the bridge and the severed head was saved and returned to the statue.
In 1585 the church was destroyed again by the English; in 1790 by the revolutionaries. Each time the statue was saved and returned; the last time by a man who bid on it at an auction and kept it in his garden until the troubled days were over. The church was rebuilt in 1800 and a century later was still extant; the yearly thanksgiving procession for Our Lady’s protection from the plague was held annually. Replicas of the statue were placed over many doorways of the city after the plague of 1640, and some are still there.