A Sanctuary of hope
At the foothills of the Pyrénées, Lourdes is one of the most renowned sacred sites in Christendom. This is where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to the young Bernadette Soubirous. In the cave, the water of the spring is said to have miraculous healing power. Millions of people every year make the journey to Lourdes, seeking a cure for their sufferings, in a Sanctuary of kindness, empathy and hope.
The family of Bernadette was living in poverty in the old prison building of Lourdes. Aged 14, illiterate and weakened by bouts of cholera, she went out one day to collect wood. It was the 11th February 1858. Suddenly, a lady of light dressed in white appeared to her and invited her to enter the cave of Massabielle. It was the first of 18 extraordinary encounters. The Blessed Virgin Mary talked about love and God and showed her the spring inside the cave. On the 18th January 1862, the Catholic Church recognised seven miraculous healings and the same year authenticated the appearances of the “White Lady” to Bernadette.
She left Lourdes in 1866 to join the convent in Nevers to help the poorest. Consumed by illness, Bernadette died there at the age of 35 and her seemingly perfectly preserved body remains on display in the Sisters of Charity Chapel in Nevers.
In 1874, the chapel of Lourdes became a basilica and in 1883, the first stone of Notre-Dame du Rosaire was laid.
Traces of early human tribes have been found in Lourdes through various artifacts including jewellery, tools and a horse sculpted in mammoth ivory. The Hundred Years War saw the castle of Lourdes fall into the hands of the English. The city was burned down in 1374 during battles between the English troops and the French. Finally, in 1407, after many failed attempts, the French succeeded in taking back the castle. Today it still stands watch above the town.
The apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous 18 times between February and July 1858 transformed Lourdes into the biggest pilgrimage site in France. The Sanctuary has continued to grow steadily over time. Today it spreads over 50 hectares with a large square and three basilicas: Notre-Dame du Rosaire, the Immaculate Conception and the underground basilica of Saint Pie X. All around, fountains, parks and paths lead believers to the Grotto of the Apparitions.
Message and pilgrimage
Millions of people from all over the world gather every year to reflect at the 22 places of worship within the 50 hectares Sanctuary of Lourdes. They line up to touch the walls of the cave and drink the water from the miraculous spring. Many hope for a cure or accompany loved ones enduring the hardships of disease. Every evening from April to October, visitors and pilgrims can take part in the candle-lit procession. Despite the physical and emotional suffering of visitors, Lourdes exudes an incredible sense of happiness through love and kindness.
The Pic du Jer Funicular
A 1000m trip up the cable car for an incredible view over Lourdes and the Pyrénées mountains.
The medieval castle and the Pyrenean Museum
Linked to the great French king Charlemagne, the castle used to watch over the city from this dominating position.
The exceptional natural beauty of the Pyrénées region including:
- A hike in the Cirque de Gavarnie, surrounded from all sides by impressive mountains and the highest waterfall in Europe. The site is labelled by UNESCO.
- Pic du Midi de Bigorre: at an altitude of 2877m, you are literally on top of the world. You can choose to ski down or spend the night to observe the incredible night sky, visit the planetarium, have lunch….
- Cauterets-Pont d’Espagne: wonderful panorama up 1500m to ski or hike and observe wildlife.
- The Pyrénées National Park: breath-taking, rich in traditional folklore and diverse and protected wildlife such as Royal eagles, Ibex, ermine…
An electric bike ride in Lourdes
To discover the city and the surroundings, an electric bike is the best way to tackle the hills with minimum effort and maximum pleasure.
April to October
Candle-lit Rosary Prayer
Every night at 9pm, visitors and believers gather in front of the Grotto to pray the rosary and share a moment of hope and togetherness.
Musical « Bernadette de Lourdes »
A musical show created and designed by leading artists in French musical theatre retracing the life of Bernadette Soubirous.
Raid VTT Pyr’Epic
A descent from the top of Pic du Midi to Lourdes on mountain bikes: a 120 km ride where participants descend 9000m and climb 4500m!