Items of Interest
The Sanctuary of Lourdes
Fabisch's 1864 statue of Our Lady of Lourdes
An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860 making it the most visited pilgrimage shrine in all Christendom and the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognized 67 miracle healings. The 67th Miracle was recognised on 9 November 2005, as the cure of Anna Santaniello in 1952.
About 800 tonnes of wax is burnt annually in devotional candles.
The Blessed Sacrament procession
The Blessed Sacrament procession is held daily at 4.30pm. The procession begins at the open-air altar in the Prairie, and is usually led by a priest or bishop carrying a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament. Typically the bearer of the Blessed Sacrament is sheltered from the elements by a mobile awning carried by four assistants.
The exact order of the procession varies from time to time. The Blessed Sacrament may be preceded by bearers carrying leafy branches, incense burners or other devotional items. These bearers are usually lay people who may be invited specially. The Blessed Sacrament is usually followed by a group of priests who concelebrate the rite. Following these are groups of pilgrims, usually under a group banner, and in no particular order, although larger groups tend to dominate the procession near the front.
The procession makes its way from the Podium opposite the Grotto, across the River Gave, alongside the ramps, and past the Crowned Statue, along the Esplanade to the Calvaire at the far end, and then around it, and down into the Underground Basilica (where participants may be seated). Pilgrims in wheelchairs are brought to the front in each case.
During the procession there are prayers and hymns in several languages. When all the participants have assembled, there follows a period of Eucharistic Adoration and then the Blessing for the Sick.
The Torchlight Procession
The Torchlight Marian Procession takes place daily at 8.45pm. It begins outside the Grotto and follows the same route as the Blessed Sacrament Procession. In extreme weather an indoor ceremony may be held in the Underground Basilica instead.
The procession is led by pilgrims bearing a replica of the Cabuchet Statue of the Virgin Mary. As before, groups usually proceed together under their group banner. Most participants carry a candle with a paper shade which diffuses the light and makes the candle less likely to blow out.
The focus of this procession is the rosary. All five decades are recited, usually in a variety of languages. The Lourdes Hymn is also sung, with verses in different languages. Intercessions may be invoked followed by the Laudate Mariam.
Accueils and Hospitals
Across the river from the grotto and the churches is the Accueil Notre Dame, a modern facility built in the winter of 1996 to house sick pilgrims during their time in Lourdes.
The Accueil Notre Dame was built to replace the two older Accueils that were present within the Domain. The old Accueil Notre Dame stood opposite the Underground Basilica, and has been extensively remodelled, being divided into two buildings by removing a section. One building now contains the Chapel of Reconciliation, which used to be the refectory, and also houses the convent of the Sisters of Nevers. The other section is now known as the Accueil John Paul II, and contains several chapels (e.g. St Cosmos & St Damien), the First Aid post and Dispensary, and the offices of the Hospitalité. The other was the Accueil St. Bernadette, which stood across the river from the old Accueil Notre Dame, and was demolished to make way for the new one.
Since Easter 1997 sick pilgrims from all over the world have been housed in the Accueil Notre Dame, an airy modern building. The Accueil is organised into two wings, each consisting of six storeys, with the Reception area on the ground floor and the Transit Lounge on the fifth. Each floor from one to four is named after a specific saint, with female saints honoured on one side and male ones on the other. Each floor has a central refectory area where pilgrims congregate to eat.
The rooms, each with bathroom and shower, accommodate from one to six people. Each room has a window, with some having a view of the Grotto, and storage cupboards and a table and chairs. Each room opens onto a communal area.
Linking the two sides is the Administration Area, with two panoramic lifts bringing visitors to each floor. The administration offices are on the sixth and seventh floors, and there are kitchens for each side.
Typically pilgrims arrive at the Accueil Notre Dame in buses from Lourdes airport or train station, and will be welcomed in the transit lounge on the 5th floor. From there they are taken to their rooms. Pilgrims also depart from the transit lounge.
Another accueil, the Accueil Marie St. Frai, is located a short distance outside the domain; it is similar in design and atmosphere to the Accueil Notre Dame.