A few years ago, near the Place de Fürstemberg in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, the picks and shovels gutting the soil around the ancient abbey of St. Germain unearthed some singular stones. Here, a face, there, great unreadable blocks, blocks that had nonetheless been worked over by man. These fragments were not broken or re-buried, as is so often the case: harvested with care, they left the place of their long sleep without a sound, under the intrigued gaze of a few passersby.
Nearly ten years later, a beautiful surprise awaited the visitor to the abbey’s church. A Virgin and Child, fragmentary yet grand, offered itself to him, in a little side chapel. And while so many statues are ignored by visitors, this one attracted attention. Perhaps some took her for a contemporary piece of art? She is certainly a most venerable Lady. Don’t ask her age: that goes without saying. If you ask me, I will whisper it, if you promise not to repeat it: she may date from around 1250…
The above is a translation of the beginning of an article by Fr. Benoît on “Our Lady of the Smile,” a stunning statue reconstructed from remnants dug up during the construction of a parking lot and now residing in her own chapel in the Church of St. Germain des Prés, on the Boulevard St. Germain, in Paris. As you can see in the image above, the Lady’s face is clear; she is smiling down at the child in her arms. Yet the child’s face had not been carved at the time when the blocks were abandoned and buried… hence the Lady is smiling at a being yet to come, a child expected with great anticipation, whose life will bring great joy to the world. A striking image to keep in mind for Advent contemplation: What does that child look like when you are smiling at him?
For more images of Notre-Dame du Sourire, click here.