Lourdes France

Lourdes France is a small market town in the Pyrenees Mountains foothills, quite close to the country's border with Spain. It is famous for visions of the Virgin Mary (Marian apparitions) that occurred there in 1858, and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes has been an important pilgrimage destination to the faithful ever since. Some 5 million pilgrims and tourists flock to this holy site each year from April through October, and after Paris, this little town has more hotels than any other community in France with close to 300.

Lourdes France was named after Mirat, the eighth-century Moorish leader of the town who took the name Lorus when he converted to Christianity. It changed hands between England and France, Catholics and Hugenots until Catholicism was re-established in 1592, and it became part of France finally in 1607. A large fortified castle dominates the town, and the castle is today is a museum. Lovely Pyrenees peaks surround the little hamlet, and one of the attractions for visitors is to take the 100-year-old chairlift to the summit of Le Pic du Jer. This is a lovely six-minute journey through mountain pine forests, and travelers are rewarded with a magnificent view. Here, in Europe's highest grotto, is a sound and light show performance in the evenings.

Other than visiting the famous church, shrines, and grottoes dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Lourdes France offers plenty of other attractions. There is a mini train that takes visitors through the Old Town, making stops along the way at the Our Lady of Lourdes church and other historic sites. You are able to hop on and off at different stops throughout the day. Other things to do include visiting the royal palace that is today the National Museum of Chateau de Pau, birthplace of Henry IV. The opulent royal apartments are furnished lavishly with a rich collection of furniture, tapestries, and decorative arts from the seventeeth century. The town and area boast numerous old churches and abbeys, including the St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church, with its five domes. But, it is the Our Lady of Lourdes Sanctuary that draws most visitors, and bringing home holy water from Lourdes is something nearly all pilgrims do.

The Grotto of Massabielle is the most sacred site within the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and it is also known as the Miraculous Cave or the Cave of the Apparitions. This is where the Virgin Mary appeared eighteen times to a poor village girl, fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. There have been other Marian apparitions that are of importance to the Catholic and Christian world, including Zaragoza, Spain in 40 AD; Knock, Ireland in 1879; Castelpetroso, Italy in 1888; Fatima, Portugal in 1916 and 1917; Zeitoun in Cairo, Egypt in 1968; Medjigoria, in the former Yugoslavia in 1981; and various other sites in France.

The little peasant girl is now revered as St. Bernadette, and it is holy water from Lourdes found in pools and springs in this grotto that is said to have healing powers. Three are seventeen pools, six for men and eleven for women, available for curative bathing. It was not until 1873 that incidents of healing due to holy water from Lourdes were reported. The shrine rapidly developed as a national and the international pilgrimage site. Reports of healings are vigorously investigated, and 67 have been verified by the Catholic Church. Tours from all over the world are organized to visit this shrine.

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