Lourdes (can be pronounced either “lourde” or “lourdz”) is a small town in the Hautes-Pyrenees department in southwest France. Lourdes is the largest Catholic pilgrimage destination in France, and one of the most popular Catholic shrines in the world.
Lourdes lies 497 miles south of Paris in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The small town of only 17,000 inhabitants receives more than 5 million pilgrims and tourists each year because of a set of visions reported by a young girl named Bernadette in 1858. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes incorporates 52 hectares of property and 22 places of worship, including the sacred grotto, two basilicas, and a variety of buildings for pilgrims and the sick. Outside the sanctuary, many pilgrims also visit the Lourdes home of the young visionary, St. Bernadette.
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
The facade of the basilica bears a circular panel with the image of Pope Pius X smiling and holding in his left hand the decree of November 13, 1907, by which the Mass of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes was extended to the Universal Church.
The lower circular panel, above the entrance to the Crypt, represents Pope Pius IX who proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. At the entrance on the right is a marble plaque containing the complete text of the judgement made by Mgr Laurence, recognising the Apparitions as authentic.
The sanctuary of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception holds 500 worshippers. The altar is directly over the place of Apparition. The stained glass windows recall the story of the Blessed Virgin from the beginning to the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, in 1854, by Pope Pius IX and of the apparitions of Lourdes in 1858. Every hour, the Basilica’s bells play the “Ave Maria of Lourdes.”
Grotto of Massabielle
The Grotto of Massabielle is the site of St. Bernadette’s visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858. The Blessed Virgin is said to have pointed out a previously undiscovered spring in the grotto and instructed Bernadette to drink from it.
The spring water from the grotto is believed to possess healing properties, and the Roman Catholic Church occasionally officially recognizes miraculous healings. Faithful pilgrims, especially those in need of healing, flock to the Grotto of Massabielle to immerse themselves in the grotto’s 17 pools – 6 for men and 11 for women.
Basilica of the Rosary
The Basilica of the Rosary (Basilique Notre-Dame du Rosaire) is one of several places of worship at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. It is located below and in front of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Designed in a Byzantine-influenced Romanesque style in the shape of a Greek (equal-armed) cross, the Rosary Basilica features two unique elliptical ramps embracing a square that can hold almost 80,000 people. Above the main doors of basilica, two mosaic circular panels made in the workshops of the Vatican depict Pope Leo XIII (left) and Bishop Schoepfer of Tarbes and Lourdes (1899-1927).
When she appeared at Lourdes, the Virgin Mary was described by St. Bernadette as holding a rosary in her hand. The Basilica of the Rosary is dedicated to this theme. Its three arches depict the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. Catholics meditate on these mysteries (events in the lives of Jesus and Mary) while saying the rosary.
Around the central dome, the transepts and the sanctuary contain 15 Chapels of the Mysteries, which are decorated with mosaics depicting the 15 mysteries of the rosary (the five joyous, five sorrowful, and five glorious).