For Catholics, Lourdes is the world's most beloved Shrine. Nestled
in a valley in the southwestern part of the Hautes-Pyrenees, it is the scene
of pilgrims gathering from all over the world.
On February 11,1858, the Virgin revealed herself to a poor shepherd
girl, Bernadette Soubirous who was born in January 7, 1844. Eighteen such
apparitions were reported. Bernadette, died in a convent in 1879. She was
beatified in 1925, then canonized in 1933.
Her apparitions literally put Lourdes on the map. The town has
subsequently attracted millions of visitors, the illustrious and the povery-stricken.
The Church has recognized many "cures" that have taken place after
patients bathed in the springs, labeling them "true miracles."
At the Grotto of Massabielle the Virgin is said to have
appeared 18 times to Bernadette between February 11 and July 16, 1858. This
venerated site is accessible to pilgrims both day and night, and Mass is
celebrated there every day. The Statue of Our Lady depicts the Virgin in
the posture she is said to have taken in the place she reputedly appeared,
saying to Bernadette in Pyrenean dialect, "I am the Immaculate Conception."
At the back of the Grotto, on the left of the Altar, is the Miraculous
Spring that reportedly spouted on February 25, 1858, during the ninth
apparition, when Bernadette scraped the earth as instructed. The Virgin
is said to have commanded her, "Go and drink at the spring and wash
there." The water from this spring is collected in several reservoirs,
from which you can drink. Other Sancturies associated with St. Bernadette
include the crypt, the first chapel built on top of the Grotto, the Basilica
of St. Pius X. In town, there are the house where Bernadette lived, the
Cachot, the baptismal font in the parish church, and the hospital chapel
where she made her First Communion.
The Upper Basilica, at place du Rosaire, was built in the
13th century ogival style but was not conscracted until 1876. It contains
one nave split into five equal bays. Lining its interior are votive tables.
On the west side of the square is the Rosary Basilica, with two small towers.
It was built in 1889 in the Roman-Byzantine style and holds up to 4,000.
Inside, 15 chapels are dedicated to the "Mysteries of the Rosary".
The oval Basilica of Pius X was consacrated in 1958. An enormous
underground chamber covered by a concrete roof, it has 660 feet long and
270 feet wide, holding as many as 20,000. It is one of the world's largest