We are at the foot of an active volcano, where sits a church miraculously spared by its lava. France’s Réunion island is no strangers to volcanic activity, in fact, since the 17th century, it has seen more than a hundred eruptions from one volcano alone, the charming Piton De La Fournaise. So when the mountain rumbled in 1977, residents of the nearby village of Piton Sainte-Rose were prepared. But the weirdness, however, was that the flow of lava, which sped down the mountain’s slopes until the Indian Ocean, parted miraculously at the doors of a local church. At least…according to the legend.
Instead, according to a less pictoresque (but probably more accurate) story, the lava made its way inside and wreaked a mess inside the building. However, it was a miracle that the church’s walls remained standing, considering that the terrain around it was swept clean away, destroying the major part of the village’s crops and homes.
Today, the church’s name, which translates to “Our Lady of the Lava,” with a set of stained glass windows depicting the eruption are a reminder to this incredible story. As for the volcanic rocks, many were removed in the post-eruption cleanup, but replaced later to provide a realistic recreation of the scene after the 1977 event. The church is painted in cheery pastels and stands out starkly against the sea of darj lava, in a characteristic contrast, and the Piton de la Fournaise volcano continues its regular eruptions.