The most visited pilgrimage shrine in the Christian world, Lourdes is not an ancient site but of more recent development. Lourdes is the site of a Marian apparition in 1858.
The pilgrimage season at Lourdes lasts from April through October, with the main day being August 15, the Marian Feast of Assumption.
Four to six million pilgrims from around the world visit the shrine each year and it is estimated that more than 200 million pilgrims have come to Lourdes since 1860.
Other important Marian apparitions have occurred in La Salette, France in 1846; Pontmain, France in 1871; Knock, Ireland in 1879; Castelpetroso, Italy in 1888; Fatima, Portugal in 1916-1917; Garabandal, Spain in 1961-1965; Zeitoun, Egypt in 1968-1968; and Medjugorje, Yugoslavia in 1981.
History of Lourdes
The origins of its sanctity begin with the fourteen-year old girl Bernadette Soubirous.
Between February and July of 1858, Bernadette saw apparitions of a white-robed lady 18 times in a small grotto called Massabiele, near the town of Lourdes.
In the apparitions Bernadette was told to instruct the village priest to build a chapel in the grotto, which many people would soon come to visit.
On the day of the 16th apparition, March 25, the lady revealed herself as the Blessed Virgin Mary. During her ecstatic trance in the grotto, Bernadette began to dig in the earth until a small puddle of water appeared. Over the next few days the puddle enlarged into a pool and eventually became the sacred spring for which Lourdes is now so famous.
Initially only a regional pilgrimage destination, as incidents of healing began to be reported, the spring developed an international reputation for having therapeutic powers.
From 1864 to 1872 the site was mostly a regional pilgrimage destination attracting approximately 30,000 persons per year. Initially the shrine was not known for its curative power but after 1873, when incidents of healing at the spring began to be reported, the shrine rapidly developed a national and then international reputation for having therapeutic powers.
The increasing number of pilgrims eventually overcrowded the original church built above the grotto in 1876, and in 1958 an immense basilica was constructed.
Our Lady of Lourdes
On the day of the 16th apparition, March 25, the lady revealed herself as the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is also called Maria de Lourdes.
Purposes of Lourdes
Pilgrims visiting Lourdes for its healing qualities bathe in pools of water from Bernadette's spring.
Reports of miracles of our Lady of Lourdes are thoroughly examined and evidence indicates that there are many cases of verifiable healings at the grotto.
Generally speaking, Marian apparitions occur in Roman Catholic countries; the witnesses of the apparitions are usually young children between the ages of 6 and 12; the messages given by the apparitions to the children are concerned with world affairs of which the children had no previous knowledge; and the apparitions make accurate predictions of future events.
Regarding the reasons for the occurrence of Marian apparitions, D. Scott Rogo writes that it is "possible that they are projections of images latent in our minds which literally become temporarily real on rare occasions.....The key to understanding Marian apparitions may be in their tendency to occur at times of social and/or political crisis. At such times of stress, some form of mass telepathic communication may occur in the collective unconscious of the threatened culture. This may lead to the formation of a "group mind", which, in turn, results in the projection of a Marian visitation.”
Lourdes Rosary and Lourdes water Rosaries
At the shrine of Sainte Bernadette rosaries made of wood, glass, pewter and crystal are available for sale. Some of these rosaries also contain water from the holy spring.
Pilgrims may also purchase pictures of the Lady of Lourdes apparition.
Lourdes tours and tours of the surrounding countryside are available to visitors.