The miracles of Lourdes
Oliver Plunkett joins some of the many pilgrims to Lourdes
Nestling in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southern France, Lourdes has enjoyed international recognition since a local peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, witnessed the Marian apparitions in 1858. The Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette at the Grotto of Massabielle by the river Gave and requested that a church should be built on the rock over the grotto. Today its sanctuary stands over the alcove in which Mary appeared. Beneath it, the spring welling up from the floor at the back of the grotto has become central to the beliefs and activities of pilgrims from the Catholic church who come to wash themselves in its waters, just as Mary told Bernadette to do.
Each season, pilgrimages organised by the Catholic Church and charities arrive in Lourdes. Numbering over 70 000 sick and disabled a year, pilgrims come to seek a miracle or a cure for their illnesses. I joined a pilgrimage