Photographer's Note

Lourdes (real Occitan name Lorda) is a town situated in the Southwest of the Hautes-Pyrénées department, lying in the first Pyrenean foothills. It is overlooked from the south by the Pyrenean peaks of Aneto, Montaigu, and Vignemale (3,298m), while around the town there are three summits reaching up to 1,000 m, which are known as the Béout, the Petit Jer and the Grand Jer.

Lourdes was originally a small unremarkable market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees. At that time the most prominent feature was the fortified castle which rises up from the centre of the town on a rocky escarpment. Following the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, Lourdes has developed into a major place of Christian pilgrimage.

Today Lourdes has a population of some 17,000 inhabitants but is able to take in some 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists every season. Lourdes has the second greatest number of hotels in France after Paris with some 270 establishments.

It is the joint seat of the diocese of Tarbes-et-Lourdes.

Yearly from March to October the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes or the Domain (as it is most commonly known) is the place of mass pilgrimages from Europe and other parts of the world. The spring water from the grotto is believed by some to possess healing properties. There are of course sceptics of the miracles which have occurred in Lourdes, but a common mis-conception is that miracles are the core of the Sanctuary of Lourdes, and the reasons for visits. Although this is probably the case for some visitors, the majority of pilgrims come as part of their Christian faith, and to help those in need.

An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860 [1], and the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognized 68 miracle healings. Especially impressive are candlelight and sacrament processions. Tours from all over the world are organised to visit the Sanctuary. Connected with this pilgrimage is often the consumption of or bathing in the Lourdes Water which wells out of the Grotto – the cave in which the apparitions took place in 1858.

It has been claimed that the grotto was previously known as a shrine to the Greek goddess Persephone.[citation needed]. At the time of the apparations, however, the grotto was on common land which was used by the villagers variously for pasturing animals, collecting firewood and as a garbage dump.


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Additional Photos by Jack Bramble (imago_lux) Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 34 W: 0 N: 34] (249)
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