Pontmain, 53220. Mayenne

Nestled in the northwest of the department, the village of Pontmain is a place of great religious significance to the French. With a population of just over 800 people, Pontmain may seem like a small, unremarkable town at first glance. However, this charming village has a fascinating history that draws visitors from all over the world.

In 1871, France was engulfed in the Franco-Prussian War, and the Mayenne was not spared from the conflict. Following a heavy defeat at Le Mans, the French army fled north into Mayenne and soon the Prussian troops were at the gates of Laval. On January 17, 1871, a group of local children claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary in the sky above the village. According to the children, Mary appeared to them with a message of peace and hope, and she encouraged them to pray for an end to the war. By January 28th the war was over, following the surrender of Paris.

News of the supposed apparition quickly spread throughout the region, and many people flocked to Pontmain to visit the site of the vision. The event had a profound impact on the people of Pontmain and the surrounding area, and it is still celebrated today on the anniversary of the vision itself and on the Feast of assumption (August 15th).

The Basilique Notre-Dame de Pontmain (the Basilica of Our Lady of Pontmain), which was built in the late 19th century to commemorate the apparition of Mary, is a stunning example of Neo-Gothic architecture, with intricate stained-glass windows and soaring vaulted ceilings.

It is a place of pilgrimage for Catholics from all over the world, who come to pay their respects to Mary and seek comfort in her message of hope and peace. Over 200,000 people visit the village every year.

Aside from its religious significance, Pontmain is also known for its picturesque countryside. The village itself is a delight to explore: the thatched barn, where the first children to see the vision were working, has an automated presentation (French audio only); you can also visit the old village church and the woodland park behind the Basilica. There is a tourist information office, souvenir shops, a café, a restaurant, and a bar; as well as a 66-room hotel.

The statue depicting the vision, as described by the children.

Whether you are a history buff, a devout Catholic, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Pontmain has something to offer everyone. So why not plan a visit and see for yourself what makes this village so special?