Lourdes Travel Guide
Lourdes, a small market town at the foot of the Pyrénées, is where the Virgin Mary appeared to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous on no fewer than seventeen different occasions. That was in 1859, in a cave on the periphery of the village. Lourdes has since evolved into a major destination of Roman Catholic pilgrimage, and a place of miraculous healings besides. More than 5 million pilgrims and tourists from around the globe descend upon this village each year, drawn to the sacred cave for a glimpse of the miracle. In the wake of the deluge, over 270 hotels have sprung up in and around Lourdes, offering up a greater density of hotels per square kilometer than any town, village or city in France, other than Paris. There are also any number of souvenir sellers lining the streets of the village, hawking a plethora of religious figurines and souvenirs, a lot of it, unfortunately, cheap, plastic junk. Still, the premier attractions in Lourdes, including its massive cathedral and sanctuary, as well as the cave where the visions came to young Bernadette and where a statue of the virgin now stands, are well worth the trek.
Lourdes is located 12 miles (20 km) south of Tarbes, at the foot of the Pyrénées, overlooked by a series of 1,000-meter (3,280-foot) peaks. The town itself is perched at an elevation of 1.380 feet (420 m), right by the fast-flowing Gave de Pau River.
Lourdes' principal draws are its huge, Byzantine-style Rosary Basilica which dates from 1899 and sits in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the cave where the famous Marion apparitions of the Virgin Mary first came to Bernadette Soubirous, and where a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes has since been erected. Interestingly, the spring water from the grotto is believed by many to possess healing properties. Other priorities in Lourdes are its ancient, medieval fortress and the five-domed St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church which has an impressive Byzantine interior.
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