A curious little chapel
The priest built it stone by stone over the course of thirty-three years.
Notre Dame de la Goutte is in the little village of Montardit, alongside the road that leads from Sainte Croix Volvestre to Saint Girons. La Goutte is a place name meaning a wet spot where water drips.
This unusual chapel was constructed between 1968 and 2001 by Father Jean-Marie Piquemal. He was born in 1924 to farmers in a small hamlet in Massat, where he learned how to work hard from an early age, planting potatoes, cutting hay and chopping firewood.
He was ordained as a priest in 1949 and sent to Arnave near Tarascon, where he discovered a little romanesque chapel on a hill. He restored the interior and decided to build a shelter for the miracle stone that was reputed to cure epilepsy. He used to haul cement and sand up the hill on his back until someone lent him a donkey to carry the load.
In 1951 he was assigned to Montardit and from 1964 onwards he looked after the spiritual welfare of 6 villages: Sainte Croix, Lasserre, Mérigon, Mauvezin, Montardit and Contrazy.
After completing the restoration of the church in the village of Sainte Croix, Father Piquemal took on another project: the chapel at Montardit. He wanted to build a place of worship that was more easily accessible to his parishioners than the church higher up in the village.
First I started picking up small stones, then larger ones here and there. Then I found a mason who did the heavy building while I gathered stones and shaped them. We worked with the fervor of gold prospectors.
When the chapel was completed I still had enough energy to built a path of the stations of the cross outside.
I always had stones on my mind. While roaming the woods in the area I would come across large stones, which I wanted to carry away and show to the world. The idea that they could remain anonymous deep in the forest, covered with leaves and earth, seemed unjust to me.
Jean-Marie Piquemal had the soul of a builder. He was helped by a small group of collaborators, most of them volunteers.
In 1985 the chapel became an official pilgrimage site. The pilgrimage takes place on 15 September, a liturgical festival of Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs.
A sort of tranquility, a peaceful force, emanates from this spot that makes you want to return and commune with it even if you're not a practicing Catholic.
Access : From St Girons take the D627 in the direction of Sainte-Croix-Volvestre. At Montardit, the chapel on the left near the road, with a small car park just below it.