The healing waters of Lourdes and
the miracle experienced there by Bernadette Soubirous, inspired
Brother Deodat Antoine to make the construction of a replica of
the 'Our Lady of Lourdes' shrine his life's work. It took three
attempts by the unassuming monk to build the tiny grotto and
even then he never lived to see its completion.
Deodat was a de la
Salle monk, of a teaching order known as the Brothers of the
Christian Schools, who came to Guernsey from Nantes in December
The wooded slope behind Les
Vauxbelets college was ideal for his project, but his first version of the
shrine was so small that after some caustic criticism he pulled it down.
The second attempt, built during
the First World War, was more successful. It measured nine feet by six and
accommodated four people. The Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth visited the
shrine in 1923, but unfortunately he was a rather portly man, the entrance
was too narrow for him to enter, and he declined to allow the saying of mass
in the chapel. Brother Deodat again knocked down his work.
His third attempt was almost
complete when the Second World War broke out, and Deodat returned to France
where he died in 1951. The other monks at Les Vauxbelets finished his work, and
in 1978 on the centenary of his birth a fund was successfully launched to
underpin and restore the chapel.
It is built
from clinker, a by-product of the furnaces which once heated the
island's greenhouses, and is beautifully decorated with local
Ormer shells and pieces of china and glass. People from all over
the world donated broken china and pottery to Les Vauxbelets to
be incorporated into what was to become one of the most famous
chapels in the world.
The chapel can accommodate a
congregation of 8 people and has a small altar. A flight of steps lead to a
pair of shrines