Religion in France

Driving along a back road toward Thônes one day, I discovered a roadside statue of Mary, protected by some lions and surrounded by candles, flowers (both real and plastic) rosary beads, statuettes and water features. Here’s a close-up of one of the two protective lions. It features a scary eye and an even scarier missing eye, some cob webs, and a rather big snarl.

French religious lion

Meanwhile, below is a photo showing just how close to the road this monument is (you can see a close-up of Mary and the trinkets that surround her in the top right corner, or click on the image to zoom in further). Yes, that’s a grotto on the left and Italian-style lions at the man-made gate right by the roadside.

The soft trickle of the water feature in front of Mary is drowned out every time a car zooms by on the country road, but it carries on regardless. Wax from melted candles forms stalactites near the statue of Mary alongside plaques draped with rosary beads. There is no graffiti and no signs of security against theft or vandalism. The marks on the grass by the roadside opposite suggest that many stop at the monument, but I’m unsure whether they’re here for religious reasons or, like me, out of curiosity. So many religious monuments exist by road sides here in France, but they’re normally much smaller and more secure from vandals.

French religious grotto

Why is it here, right next to a road? When was it created? Who commissioned it? Who goes there? So many questions, and no answers at all. The only clue: some Latin inscribed below one of the lions with a passage from the bible, but I’ve no idea what it means, nor which part of the bible it’s from. I waited for a local to appear, but nobody arrived in the half an hour that I explored. It remains a mystery.


I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,
2 comments on “Religion in France
  1. Tim says:

    April could it have been the scene of a car crash at some point? I know that in Italy, historically, the first reaction to a road fatality would be to erect a statue of Mary at the scene.

    Some time later, the authorities realised that a better way to keep drivers safe was to put up a road sign as they generally offer better protection. No offence to any catholics out there, of course!

    Have a good trip back!

  2. April says:

    Tim, that may well be the case. The only information that I could find was the usual Tourist Brown signpost that said it was a historic monument.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

Be entertained

Want the latest blog post in your inbox? Subscribe here.