Thursday, February 11, 2010

Joseph-Hugues Fabisch

Fabisch was a celebrated sculptor in his day. He was official sculptor to the diocese of Lyons.

He was a professor then Director of the École des Beaux-Arts of Lyons

Religious works are the way he is remembered today: in particular by important statues of the Virgin Mary

The first statue was unveiled in 1852 in Lyons and has become the centre of the festivities for the Fête des lumières in Lyons` 5th arrondissement on 8th December.

The statue stood on top of the chapel of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon

Fourvière actually contains two churches, one on top of the other. The upper sanctuary is very ornate, while the lower is a much simpler design.

Fourvière is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is said to have saved the city of Lyon from the plague in 1643.

A small church was erected in gratitude, to which the gilded statue of the Virgin made by Fabisch was added in the mid-nineteenth century, to mark its bicentennial.

Each year in December, Lyon thanks the Virgin for saving the city by lighting candles throughout the city, in what is called the Fête des Lumières.

The later church was built with private funds between 1872 and 1896 in a dominating position in the city, as a mark of the triumph of Christian values over the socialists of the Lyons commune of 1870

During the Franco-Prussian War, Prussian forces, having taken Paris, were progressing south towards Lyon. Their halt and retreat were attributed by the Church to the intercession of the Virgin Mary once more. Work on the triumphant basilica was begun in 1872 and finished in 1884

Joseph-Hugues Fabisch (b. 1812, Aix-en-Provence, d. 1886, Lyons)
La Vierge dorée de Fourvière / The Gilded Virgin of Fourvière (1852)
On the bell tower of 1852
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, Lyon

The second and most important work was commissioned in 1863, by the Lacour sisters from Lyon who had returned from Lourdes with the notion that a statue "representing in a manner as exact as possible the dress and the pose of the Apparition" would be preferable to the small plaster likeness currently occupying the cavity in the rock.

The authorities consented.

Fabisch came to interview Bernadette on the appearance of the Virgin Mary on September 17, 1863.

Two months later he sent a photograph of a model to Lourdes. Curé Peyramale took down Bernadette's criticisms of the photo. After improving on the sculpture, Fabisch brought the finished work to Lourdes several days before it's scheduled dedication (April 4, 1864).

However Bernadette, first gazing at it with admiration, finally concluded "No, it is not her". Amongst other things, Bernadette said that the sculptor made Our Lady smile too little and look too big.She would later say that it was impossible to replicate the Lady as She was.

Fabisch who had been extremely conscientious and meticulous in the preparation of the work was extremely irritated but knowing that he had failed, said the girl's reaction was the "greatest sorrow of his artistic life."

The statue was dedicated with a procession and formal ceremony on April 4, 1864. Bernadette and the Curé Peyramale were to be present, but were both ill for the occasion. The statue still remains in the crevasse of the rock where Our Lady appeared.

Joseph-Hugues Fabisch (b. 1812, Aix-en-Provence, d. 1886, Lyons)
Statue of the Virgin 1864
Carrara Marble
1.83m high
Grotte de Massabielle, Lourdes, Hautes-Pyrénées, France

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