Lourdes (map) is a small market town that has become a famous Catholic pilgrimage site. It is located in the Hautes-Pyrénées department, in the Midi-Pyrénées region, in southwestern France, near the border with Spain.
More on Lourdes
Lourdes owes its celebrity to the visions of the Virgin Mary that came to a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, in 1858. The apparitions have since been called Our Lady of Lourdes. It appeared to Bernadette a total of 18 times.
The interest among Catholic devotees to Our Lady of Lourdes has made the town the top pilgrimage site in France. Every year, some four to five million pilgrims stream through Lourdes. To accommodate this rising tide of visitors, the town has 270 hotels, along with hostels, restaurants and countless souvenir shops. Nowhere in France outside of Paris has more hotel per square kilometer than Lourdes.
The pilgrims converge at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. Here they visit the grotto with spring water that the devotees believe to possess healing properties.
There are high-speed TGV train services linking Lourdes with Paris and Toulouse. The train station is within walking distance from the town centre and the religious sites of the town.
Sights at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is commonly known as
the Domain. It is a complex that includes a number of churches to cater to the stream of pilgrims from all over the world.
- Basilica of St. Pius X
Also called the Underground Basilica, this is a minor basilica completed in 1958. The biggest of the churches at the Sanctuary, it was built in anticipation of large turnout for the centenary of the Apparitions.
- Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Notre-Dame de l’Immaculee Conception)
Popularly called the Upper Basilica, this impressive Gothic style building is the second church built at the Domain. It was consecrated in 1876.
- Chapel of Reconciliation
This is where pilgrims can find a priest to hear their confessions in their own language.
- Church of St Bernadette
Church consecrated in 1988, located opposite the Grotto, on the spot where Bernadette stood during the 18th and final Apparition.
- Grotte Massabielle
The cave in which Bernadette Soubirous received the visions of the Virgin Mary.
- Rosary Basilica
The third church built at the Domain, completed in 1899 in the Byzantine architectural style.
- Rosary Square
The esplanade in front of the Rosary Basilica.
- Statue of the Crowned Virgin
Also called the Crowned Statue (La Vierge Couronnée), this is a 2.5-meter tall bronze statue of the Virgin Mary located across Rosary Square from the Rosary Basilica.
- St Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church
Church located 10 minutes from the Basilica
- St Joseph’s Chapel
Chapel at the far end of the esplanade, consecrated in 1968. It can accommodate 450 seated worshippers and 80 on wheelchair.
- The Crypt
The first church at the Domain, completed in 1866.
Other Places of Interest in Lourdes
In addition to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, the town itself is also worth a visit. The following are some of its sights.
- Château fort de Lourdes
Fortress overlooking the town of Lourdes, today preserved as a museum.
- Lourdes Town Hall
A stately château.
- Lourdes Wax Museum
Museum presenting dioramas from the Gospel using wax figures.
Other Catholic Pilgrimage Sites