I never miss an opportunity to visit a Christian Pilgrimage Shrine or Church in Europe; especially a Marian Pilgrimage Shrine. A shrine to the Virgin Mary (or Marian shrine) is a shrine marking an apparition or other miracle ascribed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or a site with a historically strong Marian devotion (such as Lourdes in France and Fátima in Portugal). I have visited both places and this post is about my trip to The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Lourdes, is a Marian Pilgrimage Shrine town in the Hautes-Pyrénées départment of the Occitanie région of southwestern France near the Spanish border.
Located in the magnificent Pyrenees Mountain region of France, Lourdes is the home of one of the most important shrines in the Catholic Faith: the Grotto of Massabielle. It is located southwest of Toulouse and situated at the foot of the Pyrenees, on banks of the Gave de Pau River.
‘Basilique Notre Dame du Rosaire’
Exterior of the ‘Basilique Notre Dame du Rosaire’
Interior of the Basilica (above and below)
During the Hundred Years War, the French captured this region from the English in 1406 after an 18-month siege. Since 1933, it has been listed as a Monument Historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
The exterior of the dome is surmounted by a dramatic gilded crown and cross; a gift from the People of Ireland in 1924 made from the gold wedding bands of Irish married women.
This thousand-year-old fortress, offers exceptional views of the city, the Sanctuaries and the Pyrenees.
The town and its fortress provided protection against foreign forces during medieval times; is strategically placed at the entrance to the seven valleys of the Lavedan, on top of a hill in the middle of the city. The ‘Château Fort de Lourdes’ was held by English kings for centuries. In the 17th century, it became a royal prison until the start of the 20th century when it became a museum devoted to the history and cultures of the French and Spanish Pyrenees.
This Historical Monument presents a well-preserved defensive architecture (dungeon, drawbridge, harrow, and watchtower ). Enjoy a 360 ° panorama of the city from the rampartsAt the heart of its walls, a museum invites you to discover the . in the botanical garden with sculptures and architectural models. ”
CHÂTEAU FORT ET SON MUSÉE PYRÉNÉEN:
The castle was built on a rocky promontory, in the center of the city. There’s a botanical garden at the foot of the 14th-century tower.
Here are some interesting videos about Lourdes:
The medieval castle was used as a state prison from the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715) until the beginning of the 19th century. In 1858, Lourdes’ importance as a military and state stronghold ended and its spiritual significance as a Marian Shrine began.
On February 11,1858, Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl, her sister Toinette and a friend, Jeanne Abadie, went to look for wood in a cave, called Massabielle, beside the Gave River.
“While Toinette and Jeanne gathered wood, Bernadette heard a noise like a gust of wind. Lifting her head, she saw, in the hollow of a rock, a small lady, bathed in light, looking at her and smiling.”
This was the first apparition, which would be followed by 17 more apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the nearby Massabielle grotto. During the 9th vision, an underground spring with healing powers was revealed. The statue of the Immaculate Conception that currently stands in the niche within the Grotto of Massabielle was created by the Lyonnais sculptor Joseph-Hugues Fabisch in 1864.
The Holy See recognizes 67 miracles attributable to the miraculous healing holy water that flows from the underground spring. The visions were declared authentic by Pope Pius IX in 1862, and veneration of Mary as Our Lady of Lourdes was authorized.
Eventually, Bernadette left Lourdes and joined the Sisters of Charity at the Saint Gildard Convent in Nevers, north of Lourdes.
She lived in relative seclusion until her death from tuberculosis at the age of 35. Bernadette achieved sainthood in 1933 and was enshrined at the Saint Bernadette Chapel on the grounds of Saint Gildard.
Her body is still on display in the Chapel of St. Bernadette in Nevers, France
You may want to visit the Sanctuary and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and bring home some holy water and rosaries for your friends; especially if they have seen “The Song of Bernadette Movie” with Jennifer Jones; one of my childhood favorites. This drama focuses on Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones), a young French woman who experiences the vivid visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes.
“The popularity of Saint Bernadette was likely due to Franz Werfel’s 1941 book, The Song of Bernadette. Werfel, a German Jew, and his wife, Alma, former widow of famed composer Gustav Mahler, were sequestered in Lourdes for five days during their escape to America after France fell to the Nazis. They were hidden by local families who shared the story of the Saint’s visions and subsequent miracles. Werfel vowed that if they reached America, he would write the story, which was subsequently made into the film starring Jennifer Jones.”
The first sanctuary to be built was the Crypt, which is below the Basilica of the Immaculate conception. Construction started in September 13, 1863 and was consecrated in May 1866, by the Bishop of Tarbes.
On the day of the Annunciation, March 25, 1858, (the date of the 16th apparition); that the Lady says her name to Bernadette Soubirous: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
RELIGIOUS FEASTS DAYS IN LOURDES:
February 11th, Celebration of Our Lady of Lourdes.
February 18th, St. Bernadette’s Day
During the 18 Apparitions, the Virgin Mary spoke to Bernadette suggesting that this sacred place should become a pilgrimage site.
For nearly 150 years, Lourdes has been welcoming over 6 million pilgrims and visitors each year.
May your pilgrimage to Lourdes be a great blessing for you as it was for me.
St. Pius X: “The unique glory of the shrine of Lourdes lies in the fact that people are drawn there from everywhere by Mary to adore Jesus Christ in the August Sacrament, so that this shrine – at once a center of Marian devotion and a throne of the Eucharistic mystery – surpasses in glory, it seems, all others in the Catholic world” (Brief of April 25, 1911).
When you leave Lourdes, check out the Jurancon wine region:
Here is the complete list of the 21 Marian shrines and pilgrimages in the European Marian Network
- Altotting (Germany) – Our Lady of Grace
- Banneux (Belgium) – The Virgin of the poor
- Brezje (Slovenia) – Mary Help of Christians
- Csíksomlyó (Romania) – Our Lady of Csíksomlyó
- Czestochowa (Poland) – Our Lady, Queen of Poland
- Einsiedeln (Switzerland) – Our Lady of the hermits
- Fatima (Portugal) – Queen of the peace in the world
- Gibraltar – Our Lady of Europa
- Knock (Ireland) – Our Lady, Queen of Ireland
- Levoca (Slovakia) – Our Lady of the Visitation
- Loreto (Italia) – The Santa Casa
- Lourdes (France) – The Immaculate Conception
- Mariapocs (Hungary) – Our Lady of Máriapócs
- Mariazell (Austria) – The Big Mother of Austria
- Marija Bistrica (Croatia) – Mary of snow
- Malta – Our Lady of Mellieha
- Vilnius (Lithuania) – Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn
- Walsingham (England) – The Holy House of Annunciation
- Zaragoza (Spain) – Our Lady of Pilar
- Zarvanyzia (Ukraine) – The Mother of God in Zarvanyzia
- Mátraverebély (Hungary) – Our Lady of Mátraverebély
We have Marian Pilgrimage Shrines in the US too.