Q: Can you provide information about Notre Dame DOrcival near Riom in France?
A: The village of Orcival is located in the Vale of Silouet, 26 km. from Clermont-Ferrand, west of Mont-Domes and north of Mont-Dore. The name of the hamlet is said to come from the Latin: Ursorum Vallis (Valley of the Bears). The church of Notre-Dame d'Orcival is one of the most beautiful in Auvergne.
The image of Mary also goes by the name Notre-Dame des Fers (Our Lady of the Fetters), because of the many slaves and captives who were miraculously delivered through her intercession. During the reign of Louis XIV, the church was despoiled of its treasures to make up for the deficiencies of the royal treasury. It was despoiled again during the Revolution in 1793. Much damage was done to the interior of the church at that time.
Once a year on the Feast of the Ascension, the statue is taken in procession to the top of a nearby hill. A monument is found there called Our Lady's tomb. It marks the spot where the statue was buried at a time when the area was being invaded by barbarians. (The time this occurred is not precisely dated.) One source claims that during the Revolution the statue was hidden in the walls of the church. Beginning in 1800 it was returned to its rightful place.
The image is 70 cm high and is dated to the twelfth century. The figures are rather stiff; the garments with numerous parallel folds; very careful details in the rendering of the hairs. Save for the faces, hands and feet, the figures are covered with plates of silver or with copper silvered over.
Mary holds her Son with her left hand. The Infant, resting on her knees, holds a book in his left hand and raises his right in blessing. There is a very strong resemblance between Mother and son. The latter looks as old as his mother. The artist was not concerned with depicting anything of the maternal affection of the mother nor of the filial affection of the son. He was more interested in showing forth the tremendous mystery of the Incarnation.
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