Located in the Pyrenees Mountain region of France,
Lourdes is the home of one of the most important shrines
in the Catholic Faith: the Grotto of Massabielle.
Approximately five million pilgrims, of whom a great
number are sick or handicapped, come to Lourdes each
year. It may be through curiosity, through a desire for
a physical cure, in a movement towards belief, or to be
of service to those who suffer, that they come to drink
the water from the Holy Spring.
This region of
France was a strategic stronghold during medieval times.
Situated at the foot of the Pyrenees, the medieval
castle of Lourdes provided protection against foreign
forces. During the Hundred Years War, the French
captured this region from the English in 1406 after an
18-month siege The medieval castle was used as a state
prison from the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715) until the
beginning of the 19th century. It was in 1858 when
Lourdes' importance as a military and state stronghold
ended and its spiritual importance began.
Between February 11
and July 26, 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old
peasant girl, experienced 18 apparitions of the Virgin
Mary in the nearby Massabielle grotto. During the 9th
vision, an underground spring with healing powers was
revealed. The Holy See recognizes 70 miracles
attributable to the water that flows from it.