The first phase of the renovation works of the Project of the Grotto, the Heart of Lourdes is in its final stage. The main structural work is practically finished. The Grotto of Lourdes is receiving the finishing touches and the refurbishment is almost complete:
The ground: three different surfaces enable pilgrims to better understand they are entering into a place of prayer. A slight slope marks the approach to this place of silence which is the Grotto.
Separation barriers: Discrete barriers have been put in place along the path of entry to the Grotto, and also around the Grotto area itself.
The wooded area: 30 ash trees, a gift from the Italian Association Amici di Lourdes, from Pistoia, are planted between the arches and the entrance to the Grotto area.
The objective still remains, as previously announced, to reopen the Grotto for the beginning of the pilgrimage season on Palm Sunday. The first Mass will be celebrated there by the Rector of the Sanctuary, Father Horacio Brito, on Easter Sunday 5 April 2015 at 6:00 am.
Le journal vidéo du 24 mars 2015 - Projet Grotte Cœur de Lourdes, by Le Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Lourdes
32 trees have been planted
The first winter phase of the works on the renovation of the Grotto of the Apparitions was recently marked by the planting of new trees.
On 17 March, 2015, a trailer delivered 32 trees to be planted upstream of the Grotto. Dumitru Morosan, a Romanian truck driver, said: "These trees have traveled 1500 km. They come from Pistoia, Italy.." Dumitru did not make the trip to Lourdes alone: his wife wanted to accompany him to this place of grace. Sébastien Rozet, of the company PSP, Pépinière Sport et Paysage, surpervises the unloading of the trees. Every care must be taken to avoid damaging the trees. Each tree is moved vertically. The 32 trees are then deposited at the arches, near a mound of soil, waiting to be planted. Sébastien Rozet and his team place the rings in the center of which the plants will be placed. Again, everything is done accurately. Sébastien scrupulously respects the plans of the landscape architects. Each tree will be planted to the nearest centimeter.
Towards what the specialists call the "conch", speaking of the space where the pilgrims will gather in front of the Grotto, workers drill holes in the outer boundary, to place barriers. Great news: soon there will be a precise delimitation of the area reserved for prayer or meditation. This can only be conducive to external silence, and above all, the much sought after, inner silence. The floor of the conch continues to be sanded. The machines still generate so much dust that passes in front of the famous statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.
A strange construction makes its way into the sacred space. It is a wooden box designed to be placed over the altar of the Grotto to ensure complete protection until the end of the work. Attention is still focused on the paving of the Grotto and its periphery. The joints are still being filled between the slabs of stone: Clearly a beautiful work of art. Professional climbers tackle the task of drilling holes for passing new ducts of various kinds: sometimes there is union in strength. Using ropes, climbers secure the place against falling stone. They dislodged stones scattered in cavities that one would like to imagine are unexplored.
On 19 March the Feast of St. Joseph, Sébastien Rozet and his team continue preparing trenches for planting the 32 trees that will constitute the future wooded area. The circles indicating the location of each tree trunk will all be cemented one after the other. Then gravel is brought to level the ground around each circle. The paved path to the Grotto is not quite finished. The workers are still filling in the joints. Not far away, other actors in the Project of the Grotto, the Heart of Lourdes continue laying the barriers set up around the “conch”. An important visitor to the site: accompanied by Father Roberto, a chaplain of the Sanctuary, Monsignor Oscar Cantoni, Bishop of Crema, a diocese located in the region of Lombardy, near Milan, advances earnestly towards the Grotto. Benefitting from an exceptional favour, he who is also the Delegate for Consecrated Life in the Italian bishops' Conference insisted on going to Lourdes by plane for one day to give thanks on the tenth anniversary of his arrival in the diocese of Crema.
Like on D-Day, history will record that it was on 20 March 2015 that the first trees of the Project of the Grotto, the Heart of Lourdes were planted. The operation is handled by the team of Sébastien Rozet of the Company Pépinière, Sport et Paysage... Planting instructions = Sébastien Rozet explains.. "It is necessary that the tree is planted exactly in the middle of the circle. It must be ten centimeters below the grid. Afterwards, a root ball anchor is placed to avoid tutors, so that the tree does not fall with the wind, and to consolidate it for future years. The age of these trees is difficult to define. I would say between seven and ten years. These are ash trees. This is volcanic rock that is mixed with the earth, to give the topsoil more strength. We delivered 11 semi-trailers full. Each semi-trailer contained 11 cubic meters. We’ll be back on Monday. We leave home at 4am to get here on Monday morning at 9 o'clock." Once the filling of the root ball is done, Sébastien Rozet assures us: no more need to water it. The plantation is finished once and for all. The Ash trees are perfectly straight. Sébastien Rozet assures us: they will be in leaf this summer.
On Sunday, 22 March, the first pilgrimage of the 2015 season took place in the Sanctuary. It was the pilgrimage of the inhabitants of the Diocese of Tarbes and Lourdes. With their Bishop Nicolas Brouwet, they were obviously not able to go to the Grotto for the Angelus. Very understanding, they assembled on the right bank of the Gave de Pau, facing the rock of Massabielle. The Vicar General of the diocese, Father Bertrand Chevallier, coordinator of the pilgrimage, perfectly reflects their state of mind and heart: "At the last apparition Bernadette was not in the Grotto. She was on the other side of the river, a little distant, but she saw the Lady more beautiful than ever! It is also a good sign for us that, regardless of where one is, well then, it is Mary who brings us together."
The reception of the work will take place on Wednesday, 1 April. What is sure, firm and final, is the date of resumption of all the celebrations at the Grotto: it will be Easter Sunday, 5 April. Without a doubt, there will probably be a big crowd attending the event celebrated in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.