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Le Galloudec Shrine May 2013

Our Reception children visited Le Galloudec Shrine this morning.

It is a place of worship built in a place of war, that has lay hidden for more almost 40 years.

For decades a beautiful shrine created out of shells by a Guernseyman inside an old German bunker has been shut up.

Now, a team of volunteers have painstakingly restored the little-known shrine to its former glory for visitors to behold.

The Le Galloudec Shrine stands in the bank at Fort Hommet in the Castel, which was turned into a war bunker during the German Occupation of the Second World War.

It was built by islander Hubert Le Galloudec, who began work in the 1950s with only a small lamp, some shells and a pot of glue. 

The walls of the bunker are covered in tiny shells, which form a mosaic of images from the Bible, including the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden, and Noah's ark. Small statues of religious figures such as the Virgin Mary also look down on the masterpiece.

Interviewed by Channel Television 40 years ago, Mr Le Galloudec said he had built the shrine to make something positive out of a place that held terrible memories for islanders.

He said: "You see such a lot of misery [here], plus the fact it's a war bunker and I'd like to turn it into something of peace."

During the 50s and 60s members of the public would bring gifts to the shrine, including a woman who brought a crucifix in memory of her husband and a child with disabilities who placed figurines to leave a reminder of herself.

Work stopped on the shrine in the early 70s due to vandalism and it was closed up for its own protection. But it has now been restored to its original splendour through the hard work of a group of volunteers including Hubert Le Galloudec's nephew Andy. Maisie Le Galloudec, Hubert's widow, also helped with ideas for the project until her death last year.

Andy Le Galloudec remembered his uncle as someone who was seen as a bit of a "black sheep" and "an eccentric", but said he is now "very proud of what we've done".

Restorer Mike Garrett said that from the very first time he saw the shrine he knew he was "looking at something very magical and very special... you have that feeling of tranquillity and peacefulness".

Restoration work began in 2007 and it is now just a few seashells off completion.