To the west of Lourdes,
beyond the river Gave, is an old rock promontory, jutting up from the ground.
This rock was known locally as the ‘Big Rock’, or Massabieille as it is called
in the local patois. In those days, it was a dark and deserted place, always
quiet and used as the local dumping ground. The path to Massabieille was a
winding one, going from Rue de Baous (now Rue de la Grotte) toward the Gave,
across the Pont Vieux and passing the field which belonged to Monsieur.
1862 – Three Years After Apparitions
The huge old rock has an excavation at its base, eight metres deep and twelve across. This is the grotto itself. Above it, and a little to the right, is another opening, a small niche. There is a small tunnel joining the little niche to the main opening, but this is partly blocked by a marble cube. Beneath the niche, a wild rose bush hangs low down and sweeps across the floor of the grotto.
Trees and bushes surmount the rock, and in front of it rushes the waters of the Gave, combined with the water from the Savy mill. The locals tended to avoid the place, due to its quiet desolation and wild appearance. Bernadette knew the place existed, but she had never been there in all her life.
Neither did she have any plans to visit it,
but, she did, and when she did, the first Apparition took place.
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