Located in the small French farming village of Allouville-Bellefosse France is an ancient oak tree, whose hollowed out trunk is home to two small chapels, reached by a spiral staircase surrounding the truck. Nobody knows how old the tree is but is speculated to be around 800 and 1,200 years old, making it one of the oldest tree in the world.
In the 1600s, the tree was stuck by lightning that burnt the tree right through its center and hollowed out the trunk. Yet instead of dying, the tree started to sprout new leaves and acorns in abundance. The tree’s miraculous survival drew the attention of the local Abbot Du Détroit and father Du Cerceau. They determined that the lighting striking and hollowing the tree was an event that had happened for a holy purpose. So they built a shrine to the Virgin Mary directly into the hollow of the tree. Later another small chapel and a stair case climbing the outside of the tree was added. The chapels were named Notre Dame de la Paix ("Our Lady of Peace") and the Chambre de l'Ermite ("Hermit's room").
Things almost took a very bad turn for the tree during the French revolution. The tree became an emblem of the old system of governance and tyranny as well as the church that aided and abetted it. A crowd descended upon the village, intent on burning the tree to the ground. A quick thinking local quickly renamed the oak the "temple of reason" sparing it a fiery fate.
Today the common oak is showing signs of age and stress. Now held up by poles, part of the 33-foot trunk has died and the majority of the tree has been covered over with wooden shingles where the bark has fallen away. Although Chene Chappelle’s host tree has begun to wane, its congregation still gathers twice a year for Mass and the tree is still the destination of annual pilgrimage on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin.
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