When the French government passed a law in 1904 condemning religious schools, The Brothers of the Christian Schools relocated, continuing their work in exile. A group arrived on the island of Guernsey and one of their number, Brother Déodat, set about creating a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes. Notwithstanding various incarnations, the ‘Little Chapel‘ was born.
In March 1914, Brother Déodat built a tiny chapel, measuring just 9 feet long by 4.5 feet wide. The building proved so unpopular that Déodat spent the following night demolishing it.
Not deterred, his second effort was completed and blessed in July 1914. Slightly larger at 9 feet long by 6 feet wide, and marginally more successful, this chapel survived until the Bishop of Portsmouth’s visit in 1923.
Unfortunately the bishop’s dimensions were more generous than those of the doorway, and Brother Déodat once again commenced demolition.
But the Little Chapel that we see today proved to be third time lucky for the determined monk. Beautifully decorated with sea shells and broken china, the grotto became famous after an article in the Daily Mirror put the building on the tourist map.
Visitors came from far and wide to marvel at the tiny building’s incredible detail. Islanders continue to donate brightly coloured china and gifts arrive from all over the world.
Brother Déodat’s labour of love, for which a maintenance and conservation programme is constantly underway, has become the pride of the community and an important landmark on Guernsey’s tourist trail.