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Lourdes with the Rosary Basilica
|Intercommunality||Pays de Lourdes|
|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Jean-Pierre Artiganave|
|• Land1||36.94 km2 (14.26 sq mi)|
|• Population2 density||410/km2 (1,100/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||65286 /|
|Elevation||343–960 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.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Lourdes (Gascon Occitan Lorda or Lourde) is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in south-western France. The former regional language of this area used to be Gascon Occitan (or Gasconha, Occitània which was the spoken language at the time of Saint Bernadette Soubirous), but has been largely supplanted by French as in many regions of France.
Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees, famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes said to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous. At that time, the most prominent feature of the town was the fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its centre.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on a total of eighteen occasions at Lourdes. 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 kilometre in France after Paris. 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.
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) which overlook the town. 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 which 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 upstream 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.
During the 8th century, Lourdes and its fortress became the focus of skirmishes between Mirat, the 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.
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. Later, 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 took place 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 the first mountaineers on their way to Gavarnie, when the events which were to change its history took place.
On 11 February 1858, a 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 believe 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. See Our Lady of Lourdes for more details on the apparitions.
Since the apparitions, Lourdes has become one of the world's leading Catholic Marian shrines and the number of visitors grows each year. It has such an important place within the Roman Catholic church, that 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.
Sanctuary of Lourdes
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 to possess healing properties.
An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860, 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.
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, collecting firewood and as a garbage dump, and it possessed a reputation for being an unpleasant place.
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. The church 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 breadth.
Twin towns - brother cities
- Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health in Vailankanni, Tamil Nadu, India
- Częstochowa in Poland
- Fátima in Portugal
- Loreto in Italy
- Altötting in Germany
- Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA
- Mariazell in Austria
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 8 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.
In popular culture
- The film Song of Bernadette, based on a novel by Franz Werfel which tells the occurrences at Lourdes, won 4 Academy Awards in 1944. Producer William Perlberg took pains to re-create the appearance of the town and outlying rural areas using a golf course.
- The book The Miracle by Irving Wallace is speculative fiction based on the story of St. Bernadette.
- The film Behold a Pale Horse (1963), directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and Omar Sharif, includes a scene in Lourdes that is crucial to the plot. The scene was shot on location and includes actual pilgrims visiting the basilica.
- Émile Zola (1840–1902) wrote the novel Lourdes that deals with faith and healing, particularly of Marie de Guersaint. It is a major work of literature dealing with the sickness, despair, faith and hope.
Lourdes is served by Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport although many visitors also fly to Pau Pyrénées Airport. The town's train station is served by SNCF and TGV trains, including some that provide overnight 'sleeper' services. The journey from Paris to Lourdes by train lasts five hours by TGV high speed trains. 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."
- Château fort de Lourdes
- Communes of the Hautes-Pyrénées department
- Lourdes apparitions
- Lourdes effect
- Shrines to the Virgin Mary
- "The Village of Saint Bernadette" (1959 song)
- "Lourdes - The Skeptic's Dictionary". Skepdic.com. Retrieved 2011-09-15.
- Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 52.
- "Pope approves Lourdes indulgences". BBC News. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
- "The Basilica of Lourdes, France". Sacredsites.com. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
- "Lourdes france, le site officiel des Sanctuaires vous accueille". Lourdes-france.org. 21 October 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
- Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 53.
- Chrystia Shashkewych-Oryshkevych (May 7, 2006). "Travelogue: a flight to the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lourdes". The Ukrainian Weekly. LXXIV (19). Archived from the original on 2006.
- "Association of Towns awarded The Europe Prize". www.czestochowa.um.gov.pl. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lourdes.|
- The Official Website of the Lourdes Sanctuaries
- Lourdes 2008, Official site for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions
- Lourdes, by Robert Hugh Benson, 1914, from Project Gutenberg
- Catholic Association UK, details more information on Lourdes.
- "Notre-Dame de Lourdes". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
-  Museum of Lourdes/Le-Petit-Lourdes Museum (in French)