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A town of five thousand inhabitants in the Department of Sâone-Loire, Diocese of Autun, France. It is indisputable that Paray (Paredum; Parodium) existed before the monks who give it its surname of Le Monial, for when Count Lambert of Chalon, together with his wife Adelaide and his friend Mayeul de Cluny, founded there in 973 the celebrated Benedictine priory, the borough had already been constituted, with its ædiles and communal privileges. At that time an ancient temple was dedicated to the Mother of God (Charter of Paray). The Cluny monks were, 999-1789, lords of the town.
Protestantism made many proselytes here, but in 1618 the Jesuits were summoned, and after a century there remained only a few Protestant families, who have long since disappeared. In order to complete the work, Père Paul de Barry, the author of "Pensez-y-bien", in 1678 brought thither the Visitandines.
Paray-le-Monial has become a much-frequented place of pilgrimage since 1873, as many as 100,000 pilgrims arriving yearly from all parts of Europe and America. The most venerated spot is the Chapel of the Visitation, where most of the apparitions to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque took place. Next comes the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, in charge of secular chaplains, formerly the church of the monks, which is one of the most beautiful monuments of Cluniac architecture (tenth or eleventh century). The Hotel de Ville, in Renaissance style, the façade of which is adorned with a large statue of the Blessed Virgin, is also one of the historical monuments. Pilgrimage is also made to the Hieron or temple-palace, erected by a layman in honour of the Eucharistic King, where there is a very curious collection of pictures and objects of art bearing on the Holy Eucharist. Despite the difficulties of the present religious situation in France, Paray still possesses a number of communities or monasteries which justify its surname. Moreover, with this town are connected the associations the object of which is the cult of the Sacred Heart, such as the Apostleship of Prayer, the Archconfraternity of the Holy Hour (estatlished at Paray itself in 1829 by Père Robert Debrosse), and the Communion of Reparation, organized in 1854 by Père Victor Drevon. The latter maintains its headquarters at Paray.
From a secular point of view the town is unimportant, but its religious glory is abundant. It is more than enough for its honour that it should be, as Leo XIII said in his Brief of Coronation of Notre Dame de Romay (25 July, 1896), "Cœ;lo gratissimum oppidum", "a town very dear to heaven".
CHEVALIER, Cartulaire du Paray-le-Monial (Paris, 1890); SACKUR, Cluniazenser, I (1882), 241 sq.; II (1894), 40-92.