January 17, 2011
Repair work is taking place to prevent falling rocks at the grotto at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

CNS PHOTO | NANCY WIECHEC

Repair work is taking place to prevent falling rocks at the grotto at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, one of Europe’s best-known pilgrimage sites, has been partially closed for repairs amid reports that falling rocks in its fabled grotto could signal a major landslide.

Work to secure the massive rock face above the grotto started Jan. 3 and was expected to continue through February, said the Diocese of Tarbes and Lourdes.

Despite the work, the grotto would remain “open and welcoming” during construction, the diocese said.

Bishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes detailed some of the work to be completed.

“The rope inspection revealed that the rock on the northwest side has been affected during bad weather by very high humidity, which has led to the development of vegetation,” Perrier explained.

“These conditions have contributed to erosions in the rock, principally horizontal, which have caused water to stagnate in the stone and split it when frozen. Year by year, the rock is shifting,” he said.