Dijon is one of the oldest cities in France, and one of the most storied cities as well. The former home to the Dukes of Burgundy is now the capital of a well-established wine region, and is also home to world-renown cooking and food. Dijon, however, also has a more surreal side, with one of its oldest buildings, the Church of Notre-Dame of Dijon having not one, but two sculptures reputed to have magic or mystical powers. The first, the Notre-Dame de Bon-Espoir (Our Lady of Good Hope) is located in the church, and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest statues of the Virgin Mary in France, dating to around the eleventh or twelfth century. Over the centuries, many miracles have been attributed to the statute, which remains a popular pilgrimage point.
The second statute is located outside the church, and is approximately six feet off the ground and is a small (now somewhat melted) sculpture of an owl. While this type of sculpture may sound unassuming and common at first, it is important for innumerable reasons to the citizens of Dijon. The first reason it is is important is because the owl as a symbol is literally the symbol of the city. The second reason is that this tiny owl is part of a mystery. While the Church of Notre Dame of Dijon was constructed in the thirteenth century, this owl was not part of the original structure. It appears that the Owl was added around the sixteenth century when a more modern portion of the church was constructed. Having said that, no one knows why it was added- or whom added the owl. While this may seem like a commonplace historical mystery - after all, in many cases, the original craftspeople of many structures have slipped through the cracks of history - this mystery takes on an added element given the reputation of this particular owl carving.
Although the origins of the myth are not known, what is known is that this owl carving is reputed to have magic powers. In particular, it is rumored that if one touches the Owl with their left hand and wishes, the wish will come true. Because of the immense popularity of the myth, and the length of time it has been around, the Owl has become weathered, worn, and now looking as I noted above, somewhat melted. Despite the Owl’s erosion problems from the wear and tear of thousands of hands, the myth - and the rumors of magic persist.
Directions: The church is located at 2 Place Notre Dame, 21000 Dijon, France. The Owl is located on the North side of the church, about halfway along the length of the structure, and is near the cross street of Rue de la Chouette, which is a pedestrian walkway. Travelers to the city will be able to find the owl by first the crowd of people; and second, by the security cameras that are nearby it, as a party attempted to deface the Owl in 2001. One can visit the Owl at whatever time one wants throughout the year, and of course, can wish for what one wants as well.
Tips: Whether one believes in magic or not, or miracles or not, the Owl is a neat spot to stop and visit while walking through the streets of Dijon, and is part of the “Owl Trail” which is a short walk through the city of historic spots that are marked out by Golden Triangles with owls inlaid upon them.