Saint-Étienne-le-Laus is a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in southeastern France.HistoryBesides being a popular vacation spot, the region is probably best known for the lengthy series of Marian apparitions which are said to have occurred there between 1664 and 1718, reported by shepherdess Benoîte Rencurel The church that was established around these Marian apparitions, Notre Dame du Laus, has been described as "one of the most hidden and yet powerful treasures in the history of Europe.". The apparitions were officially recognized by the diocesan authority of the Roman Catholic Church on September 18, 1665.The "Laus" (formerly spelled "Laux") in the name of the commune, Saint-Étienne-le-Laus, and that of the church, Notre Dame du Laus, means "lake", in the Alpine Provençal dialect, which was a local derivation from the Latin word "lacus". On votive offerings and some older stones, the indication is Latin "Sancta Maria Lacensis", which translated means: "St. Mary of the Lake".Starting in 1664, and lasting for fifty four years, in and around Laus, Benoîte Rencurel saw the Virgin Mary, also known as Our Lady of Laus or Notre Dame du Laus, along with Christ on the Cross, St. Maurice, St. Barbara, St. Joseph, St. Gervais and St. Protais, the infant Jesus, St. Catherine of Siena, the angels and the devil. As a result of these appearances, within a few years, a crowd of pilgrims arrived at Laus, estimated at 130,000 within the first two years. In 1666, construction was started on a church to enclose the little chapel at Laus where Lady Mary had appeared to Benoite Rencurel.