Grands Sites de Midi-Pyrénées
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The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes was built around the Grotto, on the banks of the Pau River, where Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to the young girl Bernadette Soubirous between February 11th and June 16th 1858.
The shrine covers 50ha and is one of the biggest of the world. It consists of many sites including the actual Grotto were the apparitions took place, the Rosary Basilica, the Crypt, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the Massabielle Spring holy water taps and baths and the Way of the Cross.
The Crypt was the first to be built; dug inside the rock above the Grotto and inaugurated in 1866 in the presence of Bernadette. The Crypt houses a reliquary containing a relic of Sainte Bernadette (her 5th right rib taken from her wonderfully preserved body during its 3rd exhumation in 1925, some 46 years after her death).
Built directly above the Crypt, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (known also as Upper Basilica) was opened to the public in 1871.
A second basilica, dedicated to the Holy Rosary, was built between 1875 and 1889 on the rocky hillside next to the Grotto. It is a neo-Byzantine style construction whose cupola is topped by an imposing crown and cross.
The Grotto is the place where the apparitions took place and thus the epicenter of the shrine. There is a permanent line of pilgrims slowly making their way in and out of the Grotto, touching and embracing its lining stones, a material link to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. (When the apparitions took place the Grotto was on the banks of the River Pau. The course of the river was since twice diverted to allow the creation of a wide court).
Next to the Grotto is the candle burner where more than 3 million candles are lighted every year, each light representing for the believers an extension of their prayers.
What is maybe less known about Lourdes is that it has Medical Bureau consisting of 2,000 volunteer doctors in charge of, among other things, the running of the shrine’s 3 hospitals and of the 2 charities that provide free healthcare here.
Daily Mass in English at: 9am in the Chapel of Saints Cosmas and Damian and Vigil Mass Saturday at 6:15pm.
International Mass Every Sunday, Wednesday and Feast Days at 9:30am in St. Pius X Basilica.