Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sites : Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, Lourdes, France

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Lourdes, France - November 2019
While on of  a cycling tour of Portugal & Spain, I managed to fulfill on of life's wishes, that is to make a pilgrimage to LourdesOur family has had an affinity with Lourdes - through the past decades relatives coming back from this holy place had managed bring back the Lourdes Holy Water and sparsely distribute it to our large extended family. During the last few days of the cycling tour, I had managed to  pop over to Southern France, from where one of my relatives took me on a long drive over to the pilgrimage town.

We visited Lourdes in mid-November 2019, late autumn and although we were in Southern France, the weather was getting cold. But their was a plus point, it was off-peak and when we arrived at close to 2 pm the town was very quiet with not many visitors around.
Parking our car near the cathedral, we took a walk around the old town. The houses along the Ousse River, looked serene and the bustling water of the turquoise water added to this atmosphere. At the sides of a few houses, huge banners hung down advertising "Bernadette de Lourdes", i.e. a musical about Bernadette of Lourdes We won't be able to attend the show, but nevertheless we will get to know more about the story of this lady, a legend which I have heard of since young days.
Bernadette Soubirous (7 January 1844–16 April 1879), also known as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, is best known for experiencing Marian apparitions of a "young lady" who asked for a chapel to be built at the nearby cave-grotto at MassabielleThese apparitions are said to have occurred between 11 February and 16 July 1858, and the woman who appeared to her identified herself as the "Immaculate Conception". The Marian apparition became known as Our Lady of Lourdes. Since her death, Soubirous's body has remained internally incorrupt. On 8 December 1933, Pope Pius XIcanonized Soubirous a saint of the Catholic ChurchThe Marian shrine at Lourdes went on to become a major pilgrimage site, attracting over five million pilgrims of all denominations each year.

Click on map for enlarged view.
The place has since grown to be the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is commonly known as the Domain - the area of ground surrounding this Catholic shrine (known simply as the Grotto) to Our Lady of Lourdes (as can be seen in the above map). The Sanctuary is a destination for pilgrimagesick pilgrims are reputed to be miraculously healed by the Lourdes water. This ground is owned and administered by the Roman Catholic Church, and has several functions, including devotional activities, offices, and accommodation for sick pilgrims and their helpers. The Domain includes the Grotto itself, the nearby taps which dispense the Lourdes water, and the offices of the Lourdes Medical Bureau, as well as several churches and basilicas. It comprises an area of 51 hectares, and includes 22 separate places of worship.

An interactive Google Street map here to "explore: the Domain.

We walked in through the Porte Saint-Michel onto the large compound call the L'Esplanade. This is at the lower lever of the sanctuary, ahead can be seen the entrance to the Basilique Notre-Dame du Rosaire-Mosaïque (Basilica of the Rosary).
(Click here for a street view from the Esplanade)

Seen here is the entrance to the Basilica of the Rosary, which was built in the Romano-Byzantine style and was designed to be the pedestal of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which stands above the Grotto. 

This is a monument of great interest because of the Venetian mosaic decorations covering a surface area of 2000m2. It is decorated with 39 paintings depicting various saints and blessed people, and also by 52 gemmaux.

To the left, a shrine dedicated to St. Joseph, shows the elaborate and colorful style of the Venetian mosaic.

Just inside this basilica, a dim aisle leads to the bright altar at the other end.

Just at the entrance, to one side is a small shrine dedicated to our Our Lady of Lourdes, with a easily recognisable blue sash.

The elaborate dome right at the top of the ceiling over the navemeasuring 2,000m2Its centerpiece is a huge Greek cross.

The naming of this lower church - Basilica of the Rosary - becomes apparent to me; at both sides of the nave are alcoves with secondary altars adorned with nice murals .....

... th nice murals at each of the alcove altar signifies each of the Mysteries of the Rosary.
The Mysteries of the Rosary are meditations on episodes in the life and death of Jesus from the Annunciation to the Ascension and beyond. These are traditionally grouped by fives into themed sets known as the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries.

The altar.

A closer view of the altar.

The ceiling above the altar.

Interactive inside view of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

We exited and went on the pathway at the right. This led us to the Grotto where we attended a mass that was being held.
The masses at the Grotto are recorded and posted on YouTube, here's a YouTube link on our attendance for that day - we (in red & blue at the right) can be seen at Minute 21:00 and at Minute 35:17, bowing to the priest.

In the Grotto one can view the holy spring which is now covered by a piece of glass. No worries about collecting the Lourdes water; the water is piped to storage tanks and from there it fed to taps further down. On can easily collect the holy water from these taps, to remember to buy containers from shops in town first.
Officially it is known as the Massabielle Grotto, .

Some of the containers are statues in the form of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Within the church were sections were people can either sprinkle themselves with the Lourdes water or immerse themselves fully in the holy water. Many of the faithful have claimed to have been cured by drinking or bathing in it, and the Lourdes authorities provide it free of charge to any who ask for it.

Back tracking out to the L'Esplanade, viewing outwards one will see the town and also the Statue of the Crowned Virgin of Lourdes (Statue de la Vierge couronnée de Lourdes).

Back at the Esplanade, we take the stairs leading up to a mid-level. There are two of these stairs, one on each side of the entrance to the Basilica of the Rosary. At this mid-level is the dome (the one over the nave of the Basilica of the Rosary). At the top of this dome is a large gold crown with a cross topping it.
At this level is also the Porto de la Crypte, which connects to the Chemin de Croix (Way of the Cross) which was completed in 1912 and located on the Hill of Espélugues. This way of the cross is 1500 metres long and has no fewer than 115 figures made of cast iron and painted gold. Each station has been donated, whether by a benefactor, group or diocese

An upward look from the mid-level, showing the top of a pair of stairs (one on each side) leading up to the Basilique Supérieure, upper basilica. This is the level where the most important basilica is - Basilique de l'Immaculée-Conception de Lourdes (the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception).

Take a pause here, to look at the large golden crown with the old town in the background.

A closer view of the golden crown's elaborate details. The original gold paint of this crown included the gold from the wedding rings of Irish married women.

Going up the stairs to the top level, one will notice at the top of each stair are these stand alone bell towers, which also looks like "turrets of a castle" - are they there to guard the place?

At the upper level is a small compound, cars can access this compound via two ramps leading up from the L'Esplanade. From here two set of stairs lead up to the entrance of main church itself - the Basilique de l'Immaculée-Conception de Lourdes (Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception).
Above the entrance is a mosaic depicting Pope Pius IX, who defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

On entering, to the right is a shrine dedicated to Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. One can light candles there and say a prayer.

Vies of the aisle leading to the altar.

The stained glass windows in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception retrace the history of the Virgin Mary until the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pope Pius IX in 1854 and the Apparitions of Lourdes in 1858.

An interactive inside view of the Basilique Supérieure, viewed from the altar.

Coming back out, from the staircase, a view of the old town.

But before leaving, a surprise. At the bottom of the stairs, a doorway in between the two staircases lead into the Shrine of Ste. Jeanne de Arc (Joan of Arc).
Nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" (French: La Pucelle d'Orléans) or "Maid of Lorraine" (French: La Pucelle de Lorraine), she is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years' War, and was canonized as a saintOn 23 May 1430, she was captured at Compiègne by the Burgundian faction, a group of French nobles allied with the English. She was later handed over to the English and put on trial by the pro-English bishop, Pierre Cauchon, on a variety of charges. After Cauchon declared her guilty, she was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, dying at about nineteen years of age.

Exiting the shrine, we walk down there driveway ramps. It's a pleasant walk as along the route down were gardens and in them were several statues dedicated to saints like St. Roch, seen here with a dog as he's the patron saint of dogs, invalids, of falsely accused people, bachelors, etc.

At St. Joseph's Gate is this sculpture entitled Salus Infirmorum
The full inscription is "Salus infirmorum ora pro nobis", it's Latin meaning "We pray for the safety of the Sick".

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
(Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes)
Carrer de M1 Avenue Mgr Théas, 65100 Lourdes, France.
Phone: +33-562427878
Entrance is free fee, but one can make an online donation.
Hours: 7:45 am – 8:00 pm
Mass time at the Grotto: 12:00 noon.
Web Page:
Web page include Pilgrim activities such as Drinking at the Fountain, Going to the Bath, Attending Processions, etc.
Direction Map & GPS: 43.09741, -0.05829

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