Experiences | Culture & History 4 April 2018

The Story of the Little Chapel

Nestled in a picturesque valley in the landlocked parish of St Andrew, The Little Chapel is one of Guernsey’s most loved landmarks, renowned around the world. It remains a highly popular tourist destination to this day, and its striking décor and charm is always a real talking point.

Brother Déodat, who came to Guernsey in the year 1904, built the chapel. His homeland of France had recently proscribed religious schools as part of their new anti-religious laws, so Déodat moved over to Guernsey to practice his faith away from potential persecution.

Having purchased a plot of land at Les Vauxbelets, Déodat noticed a sloped piece of woodland where he wanted to build a small chapel reminiscent of the one in Lourdes. The first chapel he built was just 9 feet long and 4.5 feet wide, however it received so much criticism that Déodat demolished it overnight and began work on a new one.

Four months later, the second version of the chapel was finished, and this one received a far better reception from Déodat’s peers. However, it only lasted 9 years, as the Bishop of Portsmouth was unable to fit through the door during his visit to the island in 1923. Again, he demolished and rebuilt the small grotto to have a larger opening.

In the year 1939, Déodat returned to his homeland of France due to his deteriorating health. He passed on the task of decorating and maintaining the grotto to Brother Cephas, who took care of it until 1965 when he retired. The chapel fell somewhat derelict over the decade that followed, and in 1977 a committee was formed to restore and protect it.

The chapel and its unique, intricate appeal gained national fame after an article accompanied with a colour photograph was published in the Daily Mirror, and it has since been considered one of, if not Guernsey’s most famous tourist attractions. It is thought to be the smallest consecrated church anywhere in the world.

Today, the chapel falls under the care of the Little Chapel Foundation. The chapel remains totally free to visit and look around, and the maintenance is funded by kind donations by visitors, with the recent total refurbishment making sure that the Little Chapel will remain one of Guernsey's iconic landmarks for many more years to come. 

A visit to the beautiful island of Guernsey simply would not be complete without visiting this iconic landmark, so begin planning your trip to the island and the Little Chapel today!

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