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The Lourdes sanctuary in south-western France has scrapped plans to build more baths for pilgrims in favour of a new design meant to make the grotto area more a place of prayer and reflection. The Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, Nicolas Brouwet, said the need to repair damage from last year’s floods prompted a review of plans and spawned new ideas.
The sanctuary said it has received €9.1m in donations after the floods last June and those funds, along with insurance payments and other contributions, should cover the €15m cost of the renovation plan, which should take about three years to complete.
Bishop Brouwet told a news conference that the candle dispensers and faucets for Lourdes water now located near the grotto are distractions that will be moved elsewhere.
The racks of burning candles beyond the grotto will be transferred to the field across the Gave River. The old baths will be renovated, but new ones will not be built across the river.
New fountains distributing water will be erected near the grotto to allow pilgrims to drink it or wash there, following what Bernadette Soubirous said the Virgin Mary instructed her to do, rather than having to take a full bath. Pilgrims will not be allowed to fill bottles with water there.