January 1922, Noveant, north west France. As the sun sets behind the village church, a large crowd from the surrounding villages gather to witness a miracle. Then she appears – the Virgin Mary in robes of light floating in the trees and looking kindly down on the faithful.
This vision had appeared at sunset daily since 16 January and had been witnessed, we are told by many women and children at first, but was now attracting scores of visitors to witness the holy vision – and they were not disappointed.[i]
Mary herself can clearly be seen in the contemporary photo (cropped above, full version below) from the Illustrated London News. The same paper says that the sunlight shining through interlacing branches is what the ‘superstitious’ were fooled by.[ii]
The simulacrum still works well in the grainy low quality photos and is a nice example of pareidolia – our tendency to see patterns everywhere. Wish fulfilment at work:
When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom….From a tree…
[i] ‘Vision of the virgin’, Westminster Gazette, 20 January, 1920 p.4
[ii] ‘A mysterious appearance of the Virgin in France explained’, Illustrated London News, 31 January, 1920 p.3