My professional appointment is set at 10 o’clock on this winter morning in the capital city Port-Louis where the thermometer shows 22 degrees. In order to avoid the main roads which sometimes witness bottlenecks, I decide to drive along the Signal Mountain, named after a watch post on the summit which advised the public of boats’ arrival. Ahead on my schedule, I opted to stop at the Marial sanctuary erected in 1940 Marie, Reine de la Paix which gathered thousands of Mauritians of all faiths during the visit of two supreme pontiffs, John Paul 11 in 1989 and Francois in 2019.
Full of energy, I climb the steps and can’t wait to be at the foot of the crypt chapel on top of which the white marble statue of Virgin Mary, an exquisite three meters high work of art holding the world globe in her hands takes a benevolent look on the capital. This haven of peace, an amazing place of worship invites to meditation all those who feel the need to reconnect and find inner calmness.
Once at the top of the central steps made up of polished basaltic rocks, I look up at the azure sky, clear of any cloud when suddenly appear magnificent white straw tail birds flying gracefully to the soft Southeast trade winds. Around me the contrasting colors are striking. Pink, purple, cyclamen color Bougainvillea shrubs stand out from the alleys, showcasing the loving care given by the gardeners to make this location look so pleasant and inviting!
From memory retrieval, valuable information captured over the years come back to me. We owe and pay tribute to ‘Monseigneur Leen’, Bishop from 1925-1949 for the beautiful monument that was erected to ask Mary to protect Mauritius from the horrors of war and as reparation for the devastation of the famous Basilica of the Mother of God in Czestochowa, Poland during the Second World War.
Marie, Reine de la Paix, I recall, has witnessed great events such as the ordinations of some priests and two bishops who became later Cardinals: Jean Margēot and Maurice E. Piat. Remembrance of Father Laval, apostle of the poor, beatified in Rome in 1979 and who gathered thousands of people for a common prayer; or another great gathering in 1995 to celebrate the 150 years of the presence of Loreto nuns in the island.
I feel privileged to be able to withdraw in this silence interrupted only by the chirping sound of the birds. I could stay there for a long time, but duty calls. I appreciate this short moment of tranquility. Serene, I hit the road again and head towards modernization: Port Louis with its high skyscrapers and its port hosting huge container ships. Port-Louis, bustling capital city that has kept its endearing cachet with its historical and cultural hideaways.
Whether accompanied by trained experienced guides or history enthusiasts, cultural and religious sites in Mauritius are well worth a stopover. It’s seizing timeless time to recharge your batteries or learn more about a page in history. Afterall isn’t Mauritius an example of the microcosm where traditions and great religions rub shoulders, respect and tolerate each other?
So, May the harmonious song of the Ave continue to rise up towards you Marie, Reine de la Paix …
Lza M Natur