Not only the faithful make pilgrimages to holy places. On the top of a large, lonely mountain in the Rhone region of France sits a gothic church dedicated to the intoxicating passion that many share: alcohol.
This church is called La chapelle Notre-Dame-aux-Raisins. A literal translation is “Our Lady of the Grapes” and it dominates the summit of one of the more important crus in the Beaujolais wine region: Mount Brouilly.
Following three years of devastating harvest mildew from 1850 through 1852, local viniculturists decided to seek divine intervention and erect a church on top of the most important appellations of the area. The cornerstone was laid in October 16, 1854 in front of a crowd of several hundred and it was inaugurated on September 8, 1857.
September 8th is the Roman Catholic feast day of the Nativity of Mary and is celebrated by some traditional winemakers across France who refer to the day as “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest.”
Each year on this day in the Beaujolais region, winemakers of the region make a pilgrimage to the church atop Mt. Brouilly with their best grapes from the early harvest. A priest blesses the grapes and bunches are put into the hands of a statue of Mary, wherein a feast takes place.
Needless to say, the site offers tremendous views of the surrounding French countryside and is ideal for a picnic lunch with a nice bottle of wine—a perfect crusade for wine enthusiasts from all over and all beliefs.
Know Before You Go
Hiking paths and trails lead to the top and there are two roads that snake around the hill from the bottom.