On January 17, 1871, the Virgin Mary appeared to four children in the village of Pontmain: Eugène and Joseph Barbedette, Jeanne-Marie Lebossé and Françoise Richer. The children said that the Lady was clothed in a blue dress, spangled with golden stars. On her head which was covered with a black veil falling down her back, there was a golden crown with a red band around it. Then surrounding the Lady, three bright stars appeared forming a triangle. When the parish priest Michel Guérin arrived on the scene, a small red cross appeared on the Virgin’s breast, while a blue oval with four candles inside, surrounded the apparition. Soon, under her feet, a scroll unrolled, on which, one by one, golden letters appeared; they were spelled out in a loud voice by the children: MAIS PRIEZ MES ENFANTS DIEU VOUS EXAUCERA EN PEU DE TEMPS. MON FILS SE LAISSE TOUCHER. (Pray my children. God will answer you very soon. My son lets himself be touched.) After the apparition, there was a thorough and quick investigation under the guidance of Monsignor Casimir Wicart, Bishop of Laval who acknowledged the authenticity of the apparition and approved the cult of the Virgin of Pontmain on February 2, 1872. The influx of pilgrims to Pontmain was fast. On the first anniversary of the apparitions, January 17, 1872, there were already 8,000 people. Monsignor Wicart laid the first stone of a new sanctuary in Pontmain on June 18, 1873 but died soon after. After the appearance of the Virgin Mary in 1871 and the official recognition of the miracle by the Catholic Church, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were invited to supervise the construction of the new sanctuary. They moved into a large building built northwest of the building site, the House of the Oblates. Monsignor Wicart’s successors followed his path and the sanctuary was finally dedicated on October 15, 1900 by Monsignor Pierre Geay. In 1908, Pope Pius X elevated the sanctuary to a basilica. In 1946, the ceremonies of the 75th anniversary of the apparition were presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII. The vast neo-Gothic basilica with its twin granite spires dwarfs the other buildings of the small village. The statue of the Virgin rests on a column to the left of the façade. The ten stained-glass windows in the chancel depict the Virgin’s apparitions in France, including Pontmain, Lourdes and La Salette, as well as scenes from the life of Christ. Attached to the House of the Oblates is its chapel built in 1953. From the outside, it has a heavy appearance but is surprisingly pleasing within, illuminated by a golden light diffused by the lower stained-glass windows and an enormous stained glass window of Christ in Majesty above the chancel. The stained-glass was designed by master glassmaker Gabriel Loire. Standing alongside the basilica, the parish church appears quite modest. Devoted to the Apostles Simon and Jude, the old Romanesque church was in ruins when Father Guérin arrived in Pontmain on October 26, 1836. He undertook the work of expansion and beautification. He had the vault painted in blue with gold stars, statues of the Virgin placed throughout and later had images of the apparition painted on the ceilings.