Notre-Dame Basilica, one of Arcachon’s many treasures, is a protected and valued site to which the people of Arcachon are deeply attached. It was built from 1858 to 1860. The gothic-style building houses the Sailors’ Chapel which was built in honour of the Miraculous Virgin statue found on the beach by a certain Thomas Illyricus.
A providential statue
In 1522, this Franciscan monk from Bordeaux followed his hermit’s instinct, left the city and headed south. When praying at the top of a dune, in front of the ocean, he noticed two ships which were in imminent danger of being wrecked on the shoreline. He immediately knelt down and prayed for the sailors. The sea became calm and the ships sailed out into the ocean again. That’s when Thomas Illyricus found a small statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus which had been washed up by the waves. He picked it up and decided to build a wooden chapel to shelter it. The latter is now housed in the Sailors’ Chapel.