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If you're in need of a miracle, no need to go all the way to Lourdes to light a candle. Just a few minutes from Saint-Etienne, the Grotto of Cotatay is an exact replica. In the heart of a valley where all the elements come "miraculously" together.
NB - not for heathens. In the Cotatay valley, water (the river) and fire (forges) have linked the destinies of thousands of men. Decades of work (and not on a 35-hour week) blessed by the Virgin Mary, watching over the workers from her miraculous grotto. Actually, the apparition wasn't very orthodox.
It all began in the La Sauvanière chapel one day in 1873. That day, Father Michel Julien was invited by a mystical voice to build a grotto in honour of the Virgin Mary "in the midst of the workers".
Out of the question to go against the divine wishes (you never know) and so the sanctuary was quickly built and immediately blessed in 1874 by Mgr Jamot. Pilgrims flooded in.
Now miracles were permitted. Mary was watching over them.
Just the thing to lift the spirits of all these inhabitants. And there were plenty, as the workshops and factory were strung out like a rosary between the hamlet and the Grotto (along the river).Steel was king everywhere. Knives, picks, gun barrels.
Ever more demand and ever more workers. To house all these men a new form of accommodation grew up known as "caserne", barracks. 5-star accommodation compared to the hovels the miners lived in at the time. Enough to make you wonder if maybe miracles don't happen.
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All year round, daily.