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Lourdes, France

Lorda  (Occitan)
Lourdes city.jpg
Lourdes with the Sanctuary of Our Lady
Blason de la ville de Lourdes (65).svg
Coat of arms
Location of Lourdes, France
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Lourdes, France
Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrenees region location map.svg
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Lourdes, France
Coordinates: 43°06′N0°03′W / 43.1°N 0.05°W / 43.1; -0.05 Coordinates: 43°06′N0°03′W / 43.1°N 0.05°W / 43.1; -0.05
Country France
Region Occitanie
Department Hautes-Pyrénées
Arrondissement Argelès-Gazost
Canton Lourdes-1 and 2
Intercommunality CA Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées
  Mayor (20202026) Thierry Lavit [1]
36.94 km2 (14.26 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2018) [2]
  Density360/km2 (930/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Lourdais
Time zone UTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
65286 /65100
Elevation343–960 m (1,125–3,150 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Lourdes ( /lʊərd/ , [3] also US: /lʊərdz/ , [4] [5] French:  [luʁd] ; Occitan : Lorda [ˈluɾðɔ] ) is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is part of the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Occitanie region in southwestern France. Prior to the mid-19th century, the town was best known for the Château fort de Lourdes, a fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its center.


In 1858 Lourdes rose to prominence in France and abroad due to the Marian apparitions claimed to have been seen by the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonized. Shortly thereafter the city with the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes became one of the world's most important sites of pilgrimage and religious tourism.



The current municipal area of Lourdes was inhabited in prehistoric times. In Roman times it had to be, since the first century BC, an oppidum hill where today stands the fortress, as is testified by the numerous finds that came to light in the second half of the nineteenth century (remains of walls, fragments of a citadel, a pagan temple dedicated to the gods of water). Its buildings were discovered soon after the demolition of the parish of Saint Pierre (which took place in the early twentieth century), along with remains of pottery and three votive altars. In the fifth century, the temple was replaced by an early Christian church, destroyed later because of a fire. In the immediate vicinity of the place of worship was a necropolis of whose date and size there are no notes. The presence in the locality of a Roman road (and a possible second path perpendicular to the previous one) that connected the Pyrenean piedmont with Narbonne led to the hypothesis that the town could match quell'oppidum novum mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary.

From 732 to 778, Lourdes was possessed by Muslims of Al-Andalus. [6] However, during the 8th century, Lourdes and its fortress became the focus of skirmishes between Mirat, the Muslim local leader, and Charlemagne, King of the Franks. Charlemagne had been laying siege to Mirat in the fortress for some time, but the Moor had so far refused to surrender. According to legend, an eagle unexpectedly appeared and dropped an enormous trout at the feet of Mirat. It was seen as such a bad omen that Mirat was persuaded to surrender to the Queen of the Sky by the local bishop. He visited the Black Virgin of Puy to offer gifts, so he could make sure this was the best course of action and, astounded by its exceptional beauty, he decided to surrender the fort and converted to Christianity. On the day of his baptism, Mirat took on the name of Lorus, which was given to the town, now known as Lourdes.

Middle Ages

Little is known of Lourdes in the period from the barbarian invasions to the Carolingian period when the town was part of the County of Bigorre. The fortress was at times the seat of counts and, during the Albigensian Crusade, it was the subject of disputes between various local lords. Ultimately it came under the domination of the Counts of Champagne. In the fourteenth century Lourdes was first occupied by Philip the Fair, then, during the Hundred Years' War, by the English, who controlled it for nearly half a century, from 1360 to 1407, through local feudal lords such as Pierre Arnaud de Béarn and, later, his brother Jean de Béarn. The English were able to take advantage of the excellent strategic situation and the prosperity of an eleventh century market that had been increasingly consolidated thanks to its proximity and good communications with Toulouse and Spain, managing to secure important gains for those who held the town. In the town, which developed in the valley, east of the fort, there were 243 fires at the beginning of the fifteenth century, compared to 150 of the thirteenth century.

After being the residency of the Bigorre counts, Lourdes was given to England by the Brétigny Treaty which bought a temporary peace to France during the course of the Hundred Years War with the result that the French lost the town to the English, from 1360. In 1405, Charles VI laid siege to the castle during the course of the Hundred Years War and eventually captured the town from the English following the 18-month siege.

Modern Age

Waggon pulled by two oxen in front of Chateau fort de Lourdes in 1843, by Eugene de Malbos Vue de Lourdes (Hautes-Pyrenees) - Fonds Ancely - B315556101 A MALBOS 2 005.jpg
Waggon pulled by two oxen in front of Château fort de Lourdes in 1843, by Eugène de Malbos

During the late 16th century, France was ravaged by the Wars of Religion between the Roman Catholics and the Huguenots. In 1569, Count Gabriel de Montgomery attacked the nearby town of Tarbes when Queen Jeanne d’Albret of Navarre established Protestantism there. The town was overrun, in 1592, by forces of the Catholic League and the Catholic faith was re-established in the area. In 1607 Lourdes finally became part of the Kingdom of France.

The castle became a jail under Louis XV but, in 1789, the General Estates Assembly ordered the liberation of prisoners. Following the rise of Napoleon in 1803, he again made the Castle an Estate jail. Towards the end of the Peninsular War between France, Spain, Portugal, and Britain in 1814, British and Allied forces, under the Duke of Wellington, entered France and took control of the region and followed Marshall Soult's army, defeating the French near the adjoining town of Tarbes before the final battle, outside Toulouse on 10 April 1814, brought the war to an end.

Up until 1858, Lourdes was a quiet, modest, county town with a population of only some 4,000 inhabitants. The castle was occupied by an infantry garrison. The town was a place people passed through on their way to the waters at Barèges, Cauterets, Luz-Saint-Sauveur and Bagnères-de-Bigorre, and for mountaineers on their way to Gavarnie.

Then on 11 February 1858, the 14-year-old local girl Bernadette Soubirous claimed a beautiful lady appeared to her in the remote Grotto of Massabielle. This lady later identified herself as "the Immaculate Conception" and the faithful believed her to be the Blessed Virgin Mary. The lady appeared 18 times, and by 1859 thousands of pilgrims were visiting Lourdes. A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was erected at the site in 1864.

Since the apparitions, Lourdes has become one of the world's leading Catholic Marian shrines. Pope John Paul II visited the shrine twice, on 15 August 1983, and 14–15 August 2004. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI authorized special indulgences to mark the 150th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes. [7]

Lourdes 1994 Lourdes1994-1.jpg
Lourdes 1994


The Chateau Fort in Lourdes Lourdes la citadelle.jpg
The Château Fort in Lourdes

Lourdes is located in southern France in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains near the prime meridian. It is overlooked from the south by the Pyrenean peaks of Aneto, Montaigu, and Vignemale (3,298 m), while around the town there are three summits reaching up to 1,000 m (3,280.84  ft ) which are known as the Béout, the Petit Jer (with its three crosses) and the Grand Jer (with its single cross). The Grand Jer is accessible via the funicular railway of the Pic du Jer. The Béout was once accessible by cable car, although this has fallen into disrepair. A pavilion is still visible on the summit.

Lourdes lies at an elevation of 420 m (1,380 ft) and in a central position through which runs the fast-flowing river Gave de Pau from the south, coming from its source at Gavarnie; into it flow several smaller rivers from Barèges and Cauterets. The Gave then branches off to the west towards the Béarn, running past the banks of the Grotto and on downstream to Pau and then Biarritz.

On land bordered by a loop of the Gave de Pau is an outcrop of rock called Massabielle (from masse vieille: "old mass"). On the northern aspect of this rock, near the riverbank, is a naturally occurring, irregularly shaped shallow cave or grotto, in which the apparitions of 1858 took place. [8]

Apparitions and pilgrimages

Statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Grotto VirgendeLourdes.JPG
Statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Grotto
Mosaic in the Rosary Basilica Mosaic in the in the Rosary Basilica, Lourdes 2.JPG
Mosaic in the Rosary Basilica

According to believers, the Virgin Mary appeared to Maria Bernada Sobirós (in her native Occitan language) on a total of eighteen occasions at Lourdes (Lorda in her local Occitan language). Lourdes has become a major place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage and of miraculous healings. The 150th Jubilee of the first apparition took place on 11 February 2008 with an outdoor Mass attended by approximately 45,000 pilgrims.

Today Lourdes has a population of around 15,000, but it is able to take in some 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists every season. With about 270 hotels, Lourdes has the second greatest number of hotels per square kilometer in France after Paris. [9] Some of the deluxe hotels like Grand Hotel Moderne, Hotel Grand de la Grotte, Hotel St. Etienne, Hotel Majestic and Hotel Roissy are located here.

In the evening of February 11, 1858, a young Roman Catholic girl, Bernadette, went to fetch some firewood with her sister and another companion when a Lady who was indescribably beautiful appeared to her at the Massabielle grotto. Although the Lady did not tell Bernadette her name when asked at first, she told her to return to the grotto. On subsequent visits, the Lady revealed herself to be the "Immaculate Conception". This was a reference to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which had been defined only four years earlier in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, stating that the Virgin Mary herself had been conceived without sin. Bernadette, having only a rudimentary knowledge of the Catholic faith, did not understand what this meant but she reported it to her parish priest, Father Peyremale. He, though initially very skeptical of Bernadette's claims, became convinced when he heard this because he knew the young girl had no knowledge of the doctrine. The Lady also told Bernadette to dig in the ground at a certain spot and to drink from the small spring of water that began to bubble up. Almost immediately cures were reported from drinking the water. And yet the water has been shown through repeated testing not to have any special curative properties. Today thousands of gallons of water gush from the source of the spring, and pilgrims are able to bathe in it. Countless purported miracle cures have been documented there, from the healing of nervous disorders and cancers to cases of paralysis and even of blindness. During the Apparitions, Bernadette Soubirous prayed the Rosary. Pope John Paul II wrote: "The Rosary of the Virgin Mary [is] a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness". [10]


The climate of Lourdes, due to the proximity of the city to the Atlantic, is oceanic (Cfb in the Köppen climate classification). It is quite mild for most of the year with moderate rainfall in summer and quite high rainfall in winter – about 120 rainy days and more than 1,000 mm (39 in) of average annual precipitation. The summers are warm, the autumn and spring mild, while winter is cool. Because of the proximity of the city to the Pyrenees, Lourdes, like other areas of the Pyrenean Piedmont, however, can be affected in winter by sporadic waves of frost: in January 1985 the thermometer marked -17° Fahrenheit, 9 °C (historical record from 1934 to the present). A summer temperature of 102° Fahrenheit, 39 °C, was recorded in August 2003. The reference station of Lourdes is to Tarbes-Ossun-Lourdes, located approximately 9 km (5.6 mi) from the town, in the airport area of Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées, 360 m.

Stat. of Tarbes (1982–2013)JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Tp. min. avg (°C)1,01,53,65,79,612,915,015,012,08,74,41,87,7
Tp. avg (°C)5,76,48,910,814,617,920,120,217,514,09,16,512,7
Tp. max. avg (°C)10,311,214,215,919,622,825,225,322,919,213,711,117,7
Frost days10,889,694,781,06000000,314,19,7440,34
Precipitation (mm)95.383.085.3110.7114.278.457.766.072.384.3103.592.01041.8
Rainy days10,599,510,1612,5312,919,757,198,478,5310,2810,1610,29120,35

Sanctuary of Lourdes

The majority of visitors are pilgrims who fill the public spaces of the Domain. Lourdes cathedral cave side 1.jpg
The majority of visitors are pilgrims who fill the public spaces of the Domain.

Yearly from March to October the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is a place of mass pilgrimage from Europe and other parts of the world. The spring water from the grotto is believed by some Catholics to possess healing properties.

An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860, [11] and the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognized 69 healings considered miraculous. Cures are examined using Church criteria for authenticity and authentic miracle healing with no physical or psychological basis other than the healing power of the water. [12]

Tours from all over the world are organized to visit the Sanctuary. Connected with this pilgrimage is often the consumption of or bathing in the Lourdes water which wells out of the Grotto.

At the time of the apparitions, the grotto was on common land which was used by the villagers variously for pasturing animals and collecting firewood, and it possessed a reputation for being an unpleasant place. [13]

Ukrainian Church

The five-domed St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lourdes was designed by Myroslav Nimciv, while its Byzantine interior polychrome decorations were executed by artist Jerzy Nowosielski and the iconostasis by Petro Kholodny. The church was consecrated in 1982. It is about a 10-minute walk from the basilica and the grotto, on a street named in honour of Ukraine, 8 Rue de l'Ukraine, situated on a narrow piece of property close to the railroad station. Visible from the basilica, the height of the building makes up for its narrow breadth. [14]

International relations

Lourdes is twinned with: [15]


Although the town is most famous for its shrines it is also notable for its Rugby union team, FC Lourdes, which during the mid-twentieth century was one of the most successful teams in France, winning the national championship eight times from 1948 to 1968. Their most famous player is Jean Prat, who represented his country 51 times.

There is also an amateur association football team in the town.

Since 2015, the local mountain biking course has been home to a UCI Downhill World Cup round each season.

In arts and fiction

The apparition at Lourdes, represented in a cave Triant Forever.jpg
The apparition at Lourdes, represented in a cave


Lourdes is served by Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport situated 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the town centre. (Many visitors also fly to Pau Pyrénées Airport.) This airport is served by HOP! which provides three daily and two weekend air services to Paris-Orly. Jetairfly offers a connection of two flights a week during the summer. [16] along with Ryanair from London Stansted, Dublin, Lisbon, Kraków and Milan Bergamo; Air Malta from Malta and Lufthansa from Brussels with two and three flights a week, respectively. [16] Meridiana connects to Rome and Air Nostrum (Iberia Regional) offers two flights per week to Madrid Barajas. The airport also offers seasonal charter flights to and from the largest European cities. The town's railway station Gare de Lourdes is served by SNCF and TGV trains, including a high-speed TGV service from Paris which takes four-and-a-half hours. Many pilgrims also arrive via bus service from France and Spain.


Lourdes has two main schools, one public and one private. The private school, the "Lycée Peyramale St Joseph", was founded by two monks just two years before the apparitions; it is named after the priest Dominique Peyramale, who was present during the apparitions. It celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007. The newer public school is called the "Lycée de Sarsan".


See also

Related Research Articles

Shrines to the Virgin Mary Typically Catholic shrines

A shrine to the Virgin Mary is a shrine marking an apparition or other miracle ascribed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or a site on which is centered a historically strong Marian devotion. Such locales are often the destination of pilgrimages.

<i>The Song of Bernadette</i> (film) 1943 film by Henry King

The Song of Bernadette is a 1943 American biographical drama film based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Franz Werfel. It stars Jennifer Jones in the title role, which portrays the story of Bernadette Soubirous, who reportedly experienced eighteen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary from February to July 1858 and was later canonized in 1933. The film was directed by Henry King, from a screenplay written by George Seaton.

Bernadette Soubirous French Roman Catholic saint

Bernadette Soubirous, also known as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, was the firstborn daughter of a miller from Lourdes, in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées in France, and is best known for experiencing Marian apparitions of a "young lady" who asked for a chapel to be built at the nearby cave-grotto at Massabielle. These apparitions are said to have occurred between 11 February and 16 July 1858, and the woman who appeared to her identified herself as the "Immaculate Conception."

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes Church located in Hautes-Pyrénées, in France

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes or the Domain is an area of ground surrounding the Catholic shrine (Grotto) to Our Lady of Lourdes in the town of Lourdes, France. The Sanctuary is a destination for pilgrimage; sick pilgrims are reputed to be miraculously healed by Lourdes water. This ground is owned and administered by the Roman Catholic Church, and has several functions, including devotional activities, offices, and accommodation for sick pilgrims and their helpers. The Domain includes the Grotto itself, the nearby taps which dispense the Lourdes water, and the offices of the Lourdes Medical Bureau, as well as several churches and basilicas. It comprises an area of 51 hectares, and includes 22 separate places of worship. There are six official languages of the Sanctuary: French, English, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and German.

Carfin Grotto

Carfin Lourdes Grotto, a Roman Catholic shrine in Scotland dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, was created in the early twentieth century. The "Carfin Grotto", as the shrine is locally referred to, was the brainchild of Father, later Canon Thomas N. Taylor, parish priest of St. Francis Xavier's Parish in the small, mining village of Carfin, which lies two miles east of Motherwell, in the West of Scotland. Following a trip to France's principal Marian shrine at Lourdes, Canon Taylor's vision was to build a religious memorial in honour of Our Blessed Lady based on the template of the Grotto of Massabielle. To realize this vision became his life's work. Since its opening in the early 1920s, the "grotto" has attracted pilgrims in the hundreds of thousands and its environs have been modified and enhanced with rich Catholic symbols and buildings. The grotto shrine offers a pilgrimage season with Sunday processions, rosaries, outdoor Masses and dedicated Feast Day events which run annually from early May until late September.

Our Lady of Lourdes Title of Mary, mother of Jesus, related to her alleged apparitions in Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in honour of the Marian apparitions that are claimed to have occurred in 1858 in the vicinity of Lourdes in France. The first of these is the apparition of 11 February 1858, when 14-year old Bernadette Soubirous told her mother that a "lady" spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar apparitions of the "Lady" were reported on eighteen occasions that year, until the climax revelation of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception took place.

<i>The Song of Bernadette</i> (novel) 1942 novel by Franz Werfel

The Song of Bernadette is a 1941 novel that tells the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who, from February to July 1858 reported eighteen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France. The novel was written by Franz Werfel and translated into English by Lewis Lewisohn in 1942. It was extremely popular, spending more than a year on the New York Times Best Seller list and 13 weeks in first place.

Basilica of St. Pius X

The Basilica of Saint Pius X, informally known as the Underground Basilica, is a large Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, located in the town of Lourdes, France. It is part of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. Lourdes is a major Catholic pilgrimage site and the Catholic Church endorses the belief that the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous there.

Dominique Peyramale French priest

Abbé Dominique Peyramale was a Catholic priest in the town of Lourdes in France during the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes to the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. According to Bernadette, her visions occurred at the grotto of Massabielle, just outside Lourdes.

Lourdes apparitions 1858 reported paranormal activity in Lourdes, France

The Marian Apparitions at Lourdes were reported in 1858 by Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old miller's daughter from the town of Lourdes in southern France.

Wettolsheim Commune in Grand Est, France

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Rosary Basilica

The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica within the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. Its main theme is a celebration and depiction of the Rosary.

Lourdes water Water which flows from a spring in Lourdes, France, considered holy

Lourdes water is water which flows from a spring in the Grotto of Massabielle in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, France. The location of the spring was described to Bernadette Soubirous by an apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes on 25 February 1858. Since that time, many thousands of pilgrims to Lourdes have followed the instruction of Our Lady of Lourdes to "drink at the spring and bathe in it". Lourdes water is considered non-liturgical holy water.

Catholic Marian church buildings Type of religious building

Roman Marian churches are religious buildings dedicated to the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These churches were built throughout the history of the Catholic Church, and today they can be found on every continent including Antarctica. The history of Marian church architecture tells the unfolding story of the development of Roman Catholic Mariology.

<i>Le pèlerinage de Lourdes</i>

Le pèlerinage de Lourdes is the only encyclical of Pope Pius XII issued in French. It includes warnings against materialism on the centenary of the apparitions at Lourdes. It was given at Rome, from St. Peter's Basilica, on the feast of the Visitation of the Most Holy Virgin, July 2, 1957, the nineteenth year of his pontificate.

Joseph-Hugues Fabisch

Joseph-Hugues Fabisch was a French sculptor. He was professor at the École des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, and official sculptor to the diocese of Lyon.

Grotta di Lourdes

Grotta di Lourdes is an artificial cave in the Vatican gardens. It was built in 1902–05 and is a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France. The context of building this grotto is the vision of the Madonna that a young girl, Bernadette Soubirous, experienced 18 times. Prior to that the Pope had promulgated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.

The Shrine of St. Bernadette is a Roman Catholic church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States.

Espace Bernadette Soubirous Nevers

Espace Bernadette Soubirous Nevers is a former convent and the motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers in Nevers, France, and is where the body of Saint Bernadette reposes. In 1970, it was converted into a sanctuary run by volunteers and a few sisters who administer to pilgrims and manage the building.


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