Do you know that the famous Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes in France has more than 1,000 replicas in Belgium? One of them is located in Montignies-Lez-Lens in a particularly enchanting setting.
It’s impossible to go past by accident. Nestled at the end of a trail in open country, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Montignies-Lez-Lens, also known as the Grotte Notre-Dame des Bouloirs, is worth a visit just for the atmosphere. Believers and unbelievers will be surprised, even arrested, by the atmosphere pervading this grotto set amidst greenery. Sit on a bench, breathe and let your thoughts wander. Beyond its religious character, the Grotto of Montignies encourages meditation. Here, time stands still. The hassle of daily life and the hustle and bustle of the city seem far away.
A place of contemplation
Under the gaze of the Virgin hidden in the crevices of a rock mass, you can collect yourself and take a break. The place is located away from any traffic. Facing you, a small display with candles indicates the place is regularly visited. Flames dance with the wind. Who are these people that pay a visit to Bernadette and the Virgin Mary? Residents? Tourists? Whatever the case, since its construction in 1895, this rock-dug cave is visited by over 3,000 people every year. In the rock, stories recorded on slabs or even just on pieces of paper testify to the devotion felt by visitors. Our Lady of Lourdes makes an impression.
Each year, in May and on 15 August, hundreds of pilgrims gather to pray to the Virgin Mary and acknowledge the replica of Saint-Bernadette. The procession starts from the village, goes down rue des Ecoles des Bouloirs before arriving at the trail just before rue de la Roche. The landscapes encountered also invite pilgrims to meditate, as nature is richly expressed in its finest aspects. Maintained by a few people, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Montignies is a real emblem for the town. Local rumour also has it that, while not all villagers attend mass, all do go to the grotto at least once a year!