Saint-Étienne-le-Laus, Notre Dame du Laus

A view from the church of Saint-Étienne-le-Laus

Coat of arms
Saint-Étienne-le-Laus, Notre Dame du Laus

Coordinates: 44°30′11″N 6°09′46″E / 44.5031°N 6.1628°E / 44.5031; 6.1628Coordinates: 44°30′11″N 6°09′46″E / 44.5031°N 6.1628°E / 44.5031; 6.1628
Country France
Region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Department Hautes-Alpes
Arrondissement Gap
Canton La Bâtie-Neuve
Intercommunality Avance
  Mayor (20082014) Gaston Disdier
Area1 8.66 km2 (3.34 sq mi)
Population (2008)2 297
  Density 34/km2 (89/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
INSEE/Postal code 05140 / 05130
Elevation 699–1,266 m (2,293–4,154 ft)
(avg. 735 m or 2,411 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Saint-Étienne-le-Laus is a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in southeastern France.


Besides being a popular vacation spot, the region is probably best known for the lengthy series of Marian apparitions which are said to have occurred there between 1664 and 1718, reported by shepherdess Benoîte Rencurel[1] The church that was established around these Marian apparitions, Notre Dame du Laus, has been described as "one of the most hidden and yet powerful treasures in the history of Europe.".[2] The apparitions were officially recognized by the diocesan authority of the Roman Catholic Church on September 18, 1665.[3]

The "Laus" (formerly spelled "Laux") in the name of the commune, Saint-Étienne-le-Laus, and that of the church, Notre Dame du Laus, means "lake", in the Alpine Provençal dialect, which was a local derivation from the Latin word "lacus".[4] On votive offerings and some older stones, the indication is Latin "Sancta Maria Lacensis", which translated means: "St. Mary of the Lake".[5]

Starting in 1664, and lasting for fifty four years, in and around Laus, Benoîte Rencurel saw the Virgin Mary, also known as Our Lady of Laus or Notre Dame du Laus, along with Christ on the Cross, St. Maurice, St. Barbara, St. Joseph, St. Gervais and St. Protais, the infant Jesus, St. Catherine of Siena, the angels and the devil.[6] As a result of these appearances, within a few years, a crowd of pilgrims arrived at Laus, estimated at 130,000 within the first two years.[7] In 1666, construction was started on a church to enclose the little chapel at Laus where Lady Mary had appeared to Benoite Rencurel.[8]

On May 4, 2008, Bishop Jean Marie di Falco, the Bishop of Gap and Embrun, officially recognized the supernatural nature of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Benoite Rencurel.[9] This recognition by the Catholic Church marks the first approved Marian apparition in the 21st century, and the first in France since Lourdes was recognized, a century and a half ago.[10] Consistent with that recognition, Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco has supported the beatification of Benoîte Rencurel.[11] Under the auspices of Bishop Rene Combal, six experts (a theologian, a historian, a biblical scholar, a psychoanalyst, a psychologist, and a magistrate) have studied for several years the historical, and scientific and medical facts, from manuscripts written contemporaneously with Benoîte Rencurel's life.[12]

The basilica today. The church at Notre Dame du Laus, or Our Lady of Laus, contains:

Two items that are unique to Notre Dame du Laus are worth mentioning in more detail. The first is the oil from the sanctuary lamp. The oil lamp glows continuously in the sanctuary in front of the tabernacle. Oil is the means chosen by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Laus to grant physical and spiritual healings.[15] Many healings (and alleviation of symptoms) have been reported by people who apply the oil from the lamp to the afflicted area, with faith and in prayer to the intercession of Notre Dame du Laus.[16] The oil has been described as having the equivalent healing powers of the waters of Lourdes. The oil is free, and is sent to anyone who requests it from the website of the Sanctuary of Notre Dame du Laus (in French only at this time).[17]

Laus is also a place of famed "suave odors" or "exquisite fragrances".[18] The inhalations of these olfactory delights are reported to bring a sudden, calm joy to the senses. The beneficiaries of these fragrances retain a deep impression from the experiences which often encourages them to better prayers. It was reported of Benoîte Rencurel that she always smelled these perfumes when she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the scents, which impregnated everything, persisted even after the apparition of Our Lady ended. Indeed, the sculpture Honoré Pellé[19] (alternatively, Honoré Pela) gave the marble statue of Notre Dame du Laus, noted above, after being immersed in these exquisite fragrances during a pilgrimage to Laus.[20]


Historical population

See also


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