In 1844, Lourdes was a small town forgoten in the lower Pyrenees. It is in this locality that little Bernardette Soubirous is born on January 7.
Bernardette grew up with a fragile health and in 1857, at the age of 13, began to live an even more miserable life when the family finds itself forced to take refuge in the old prison of "le Cachot", after the arrest of her father. One of her frequent tasks was to gather firewood to sell. It was at this moment, when she was with a friend, by the bank of the river Gave that Bernardette saw, in a cavity of the rock of the Grotto of Massabielle, a lady, shrouded in light, who looked at her and smiled at her.
This was the first of 18 Apparitions of Our Lady in this place.
During the Apparitions the message of prayer and penitance was very clear. And the miracle cures followed each other. After the Catholic Church declared the Apparitions as true, the popular cult, next to the cave, led to the construction of a Sanctuary that has been enlarged over the years.
The Grotto of Massabielle is with no doubt the heary of the Shrine. There is a miraculous spring revealed by Our Lady to Bernardette.
Above the whole rocky massif, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was built in ogival style and elevates itself with its 19 metre tower and the two pinnacles added later. On the lower floor, there is the Crypt, excavated in the rock, which was the first church of the Sanctuary. This is a place that invites to prayer and contemplation.
At the base of the cliff stands the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Roman-Byzantine style, that, together with the Basilica da Imaculada Concepção, almost form one unique and single building. In this union, the two elliptical ramps that give access to the upper church, seem to embrace the pilgrim that reaches the Sanctuary of Lourdes.
In 1958, a new underground basilica was built, whose function was to accommodate as many pilgrims as possible in a covered space: the Basilica of St. Pius X, in oval format, with an area of ??12,000m2.
Finally, in 1988, the last church in the Sanctuary area was built. It is on the other side of the Gave River, in front of the Grotto of Massabielle, that the Church of Santa Bernardette is built.
Each pilgrim or visitor, in addition to visiting the spaces of the Sanctuary, is invited to an attitude of silence and contemplation.
One of the highlights in this Sanctuary is the participation in the Rosary and the Candle light Procession that every night takes place on the esplanade of the Sanctuary. It is in this "path of light" that we witness the faith of many thousands of pilgrims who daily come to this place in search of a grace or to thank a grace conceeded.
Nearby the Sanctuary we can visit the Moulin de Boly, birthplace of Bernadette and residence of the Soubirous family.