Lourdes, France, is home to one of the most famous Marian shrines in the world: The Grotto of Massabielle. It draws an average of 6 million pilgrims each year who come to pray and submerge themselves in the miraculous healing waters of the spring.
For a more prayerful experience when visiting Lourdes, France, it’s essential to know the story of our Lady of Lourdes and the source of the spring. Read on to discover Our Lady of Lourdes’ story.
The Story of Our Lady of Lourdes
The story begins with a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous (now known as Saint Bernadette).
Who is Saint Bernadette?
Bernadette Soubirous was the young girl who witnessed Mary’s apparitions at Lourdes. She was born at Boly Mill on January 7, 1844. Her family’s poverty led them to live in a refurbished old prison known as The Cachot (French for “the dungeon”).
Saint Bernadette was a joyful and prayerful soul. She was only 14 years old when she began to see the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Bernadette witnessed 18 Marian Apparitions at Lourdes from February 11, 1858, to July 16, 1858.
While there are 18 apparitions, some are more crucial to understanding Our Lady of Lourdes and the meaning of the Grotto of Massabielle. We’ve summarized these significant events below.
February 11, 1858: Bernadette Meets Our Lady of Lourdes
On February 11, 1858, Bernadette Soubirous was gathering firewood near the Gave River with her sister and a close friend. Bernadette was left behind by the river when, looking up, she saw a beautiful young woman standing in a grotto.
The Lady was standing on a rose bush and holding a rosary. Bernadette recounted, “She wore a white dress, and equally white veils, a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot.”
The Lady led Bernadette in praying the Rosary. When they had finished praying, the Lady disappeared!
February 18, 1858: Our Lady Speaks
The Lady appeared to Bernadette again on February 18th. Bernadette offered the Lady a pen and paper for her to write down her name. Instead, the Lady spoke for the first time.
The Lady said, “Would you be kind enough to come here for a fortnight?” (A fortnight is fourteen days). Bernadette agreed.
People began to hear about her visions. Soon, hundreds of people were attending Bernadette’s visits. They believed the Lady was the Blessed Virgin Mary.
February 25, 1858: The Miraculous Spring Appears
During Bernadette’s seventh visit on February 25th, the Lady told her to “drink of the spring.” However, there was no spring. So, Bernadette began to dig for one with her hands.
Bernadette uncovered a muddy trickle, and she drank from it. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the dirty waters turned into a freshwater spring!
In the days to come, this spring became known for its healing properties if used with faith. The first miracle was recounted on March 1, 1858.
March 25, 1858: “I Am the Immaculate Conception”
The Lady had asked that the priests build a chapel at the grotto, but before they could proceed, they needed the Lady’s name.
On March 25th, the Lady officially revealed her identity. She said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The Immaculate Conception means that Mary was conceived without Original Sin. This made her the perfect vessel to hold the Son of God.
This title was enough to convince the Church to begin the process of investigating the Apparitions and eventually build a chapel.
The Lourdes Shrine Today
What began as a humble grotto is now a breathtaking shrine devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Three churches are built above The Grotto of Massabielle. The three churches are:
- The Crypt
- The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
- The Rosary Basilica
A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes stands where the Blessed Virgin had stood in 1858. Beneath her, in the small cave, are the clear waters of the Miraculous Spring.
Since 1862, 70 out of 7,000 reported healings have been confirmed as miracles due to the spring’s waters! You can enter these waters at the Healing Baths.
Don’t just read about it. You will have the chance to see it all with Glimmer Tours: Catholic Pilgrimages. See what your future Lourdes itinerary holds.
“The Apparitions.” Bienvenue au Sanctuaire NotreDame De Lourdes, Lourdes Sanctuaire, https://www.lourdes-france.org/en/apparitions/.