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Coordinates: 43°06′N 0°03′W / 43.1°N 0.05°W / 43.1; -0.05

Commune of Lourdes
Lourdes with the Rosary Basilica

Lourdes is located in France
Country France
Region Midi-Pyrénées
Department Hautes-Pyrénées
Arrondissement Argelès-Gazost
Canton Chief town of 2 cantons
Intercommunality Pays de Lourdes
Mayor Jean-Pierre Artiganave
Elevation 343–960 m (1,125–3,150 ft)
Land area1 36.94 km2 (14.26 sq mi)
Population2 15,203  (1099)
 - Density 412 /km2 (1,070 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 65286/ 65100
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Fort in Lourdes
Statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Grotto
Mosaic in the Rosary Basilica

Lourdes (Occitan: Lorda) is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in south-western France.

Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees, famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes that are reported to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous. At that time, the most prominent feature of the town was the fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its centre.



Following the reports that Our Lady of Lourdes had appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on a total of eighteen occasions, Lourdes has developed into a major place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage and of alleged miraculous healings. The 150th Jubilee of the first apparition took place on 11 February 2008 with an outdoor mass attended by approximately 45,000 pilgrims.

Today Lourdes has a population of around 15,000 but is able to take in some 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists every season. With about 270 hotels, Lourdes has the second greatest number of hotels in France after Paris.[citation needed]

It is the joint seat of the diocese of Tarbes-et-Lourdes and is the largest pilgrimage site in France, the second site being the Basilica of St. Thérèse (Lisieux), in Normandie.


Lourdes is located in the area of the prime meridian in France. It is overlooked from the south by the Pyrenean peaks of Aneto, Montaigu, and Vignemale (3,298 m), while around the town there are three summits reaching up to 1,000 m (3,280.84 ft) which are known as the Béout, the Petit Jer (with its three crosses) and the Grand Jer (with its single cross) which overlook the town. The Grand Jer is accessible via the funicular railway of the Pic du Jer. The Béout was once accessible by cable car, although this has fallen into disrepair. A pavilion is still visible on the summit.

Lourdes lies at an altitude of 420 m (1,380 ft) and in a central position through which runs the fast-flowing river Gave de Pau from the south coming from its source at Gavarnie, into which flow several smaller rivers from Barèges and Cauterets. The Gave then branches off to the west towards the Béarn, running past the banks of the Grotto and on downstream to Pau and then Biarritz.

On land bordered by a loop of the Gave de Pau is an outcrop of rock called Massabielle, (from masse vieille: "old mass"). On the northern aspect of this rock, near the riverbank, is a naturally occurring, irregularly shaped shallow cave or grotto, in which the apparitions of 1858 took place.[1]


During the 8th century, Lourdes and its fortress became the focus of skirmishes between Mirat, the local leader, and Charlemagne, King of the Franks. Charlemagne had been laying siege to Mirat in the fortress for some time, but the Moor had so far refused to surrender. According to legend, an eagle unexpectedly appeared and dropped an enormous trout at the feet of Mirat. It was seen as such a bad omen that Mirat was persuaded to surrender to the Queen of the sky by the local bishop. He visited the Black Virgin of Puy to offer gifts, so he could make sure this was the best course of action and, astounded by its exceptional beauty, he decided to surrender the fort and convert to Christianity. On the day of his baptism, Mirat took on the name of Lorus, which was given to the town, now known as Lourdes.

After being the residency of the Bigorre counts, Lourdes was given to England by the Brétigny Treaty which bought a temporary peace to France during the course of the Hundred Years War with the result that the French lost the town to the English, from 1360. In 1405, Charles VI laid siege to the castle during the course of the Hundred Years War and eventually captured the town from the English following the 18-month siege. Later, during the late 16th century, France was ravaged with the Wars of Religion between the Roman Catholics and the Huguenots. In 1569, Count Gabriel de Montgomery attacked the nearby town of Tarbes when Queen Jeanne d’Albret of Navarre established Protestantism there. The town was overrun, in 1592, by forces of the Catholic League and the Catholic faith was re-established in the area. In 1607, Lourdes finally became part of the Kingdom of France.

The castle became a jail under Louis XV but, in 1789, the General Estates Assembly ordered the liberation of prisoners. Following the rise of Napoleon in 1803, he again made the Castle an Estate jail. Towards the end of the Peninsular War between France, Spain, Portugal, and Britain in 1814, British and Allied forces, under the Duke of Wellington, entered France and took control of the region and followed Marshall Soult’s army, defeating the French near the adjoining town of Tarbes before the final battle took place outside Toulouse on 10 April 1814 which brought the war to an end.

Up until 1858, Lourdes was a quiet, modest, county-town with a population of only some 4,000 inhabitants. The castle was occupied by an infantry garrison. The town was a place people passed through on their way to the waters at Barèges, Cauterets, Luz-Saint-Sauveur and Bagnères-de-Bigorre, and for the first mountaineers on their way to Gavarnie, when the events which were to change its history took place.

On 11 February 1858, a 14-year-old local girl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed a beautiful lady appeared to her in the remote Grotto of Massabielle. The lady later identified herself as "the Immaculate Conception" and the faithful believe her to be the Blessed Virgin Mary. The lady appeared 18 times, and by 1859 thousands of pilgrims were visiting Lourdes. A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was erected at the site in 1864. See Our Lady of Lourdes for more details on the apparitions.

Since the apparitions, Lourdes has become one of the world's leading Catholic Marian shrines and the number of visitors grows each year. It has such an important place within the Roman Catholic church, that Pope John Paul II visited the shrine twice on 15 August 1983 and 14–15 August 2004. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI authorized special indulgences to mark the 150th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes.[2]

Sanctuary of Lourdes

The majority of visitors are pilgrims who fill the public spaces of the Domain

Yearly from March to October the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is a place of mass pilgrimage from Europe and other parts of the world. The spring water from the grotto is believed by some to possess healing properties, however there have been skeptics of the miracles from the first reports.

An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860,[3] and the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognised 67 miraculous healings which are stringently examined for authenticity and authentic miracle healing with no physical or psychological basis other than the healing power of the water.[4] Especially impressive are candlelight and sacrament processions. Tours from all over the world are organized 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.

At the time of the apparitions the grotto was on common land which was used by the villagers variously for pasturing animals, collecting firewood and as a garbage dump, and it possessed a reputation for being an unpleasant place.[5]

Ukrainian Church

The five-domed St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lourdes was designed by Myroslav Nimciv, while its Byzantine interior polychrome decorations were executed by famed artist Jerzy Nowosielski. The church is about a 10-minute walk from the basilica and the grotto, on a street named in honor of Ukraine, situated on a narrow piece of property close to the railroad station. Visible from the basilica, the height of the building makes up for its breadth.[6]

The Ukrainian Catholic church is located on 8 Rue de l'Ukraine, 65100 Lourdes, France.

International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Lourdes is twinned with:[7]


Although the town is most famous for its shrines it is also notable for its Rugby union team, FC Lourdes, which during the mid-twentieth century was one of the most successful teams in France, winning the national championship 8 times from 1948 to 1968. Their most famous player is Jean Prat who represented his country 51 times.

There is also an amateur association football team in the town.

In popular culture

  • The film Song of Bernadette, based on a novel by Franz Werfel which tells the occurrences at Lourdes, won 4 Academy Awards in 1944.
  • The film Behold a Pale Horse (1964), directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and Omar Sharif, includes a scene in Lourdes that is crucial to the plot. The scene was shot on location and includes actual pilgrims visiting the basilica.
  • Comedian George Carlin frequently made references to Lourdes in some Catholic-related skits.
  • Entertainer Madonna named her firstborn daughter Lourdes in 1996 as a tribute to Madonna's mother, who wanted to visit Lourdes, France, but died before doing so.
  • The character Cochepaille from Les Misérables is from Lourdes.
  • Woody Allen in the movie "Annie Hall" tells Annie he has been seeing an analyst for 15 years. She exclaims, "15 years?!" To which he replies, "I'm going to give him one more year, and then I'm going to Lourdes."
  • In the movie "Waking Ned Devine", Father Patrick says to a young boy Morris, "Father Mulligan will be back from Lourdes soon..."
  • In the movie "Casino (film)", Robert DeNiro narrating says about Las Vegas, "It does for us what Lourdes does for humpbacks and cripples."
  • Émile Zola (1840–1902) wrote the novel Lourdes that deals with faith and healing, particularly of Marie de Guersaint. It is a major work of literature dealing with the sickness, despair, faith and hope.
  • Catherine Simon Wrote a book, Where Echoes Meet, capturing the stories of nine pilgrims and their experiences in Lourdes, including that of Jean-Pierre Bély, the last confirmed pilgrim to be healed in Lourdes.
  • Mireille Mathieu, the famous French singer, in referring to the deficiencies in any human being, has stated that when she goes to Lourdes and sees sick or invalid people around, she considers it a sin to complain.
  • Swedish-German Techno 8bit artist Gem Tos is mentioning Lourdes in her remix of the Dubmood song Traverse des pyrenees where she is talking about her trainride with a TER from Pau to Tolouse after watching the Grand Prix de Pau in 1979.


Lourdes is served by Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport


Lourdes has two main schools, one public and one private. The private school, the "Lycee Peyramale St Joseph" was founded just two years before the apparitions by two monks; it is named after the curee Peyramale, who was present during the apparitions. It celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007. The public school, the "Lycee de Sarsan," is a newer, less reputed establishment. It is in constant rivalry with the lycee Peyramale.

See also


  1. ^ Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 52.
  2. ^ "Pope approves Lourdes indulgences". BBC News. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 6 December 2007. 
  3. ^ "The Basilica of Lourdes, France". Retrieved 5 May 2009. 
  4. ^ "Lourdes france, le site officiel des Sanctuaires vous accueille". 21 October 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2009. 
  5. ^ Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 53.
  6. ^ Chrystia Shashkewych-Oryshkevych (May 7, 2006). "Travelogue: a fight to the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lourdes". The Ukrainian Weekly LXXIV (19). 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Association of Towns awarded The Europe Prize". Retrieved 10 October 2009. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Lourdes is a large town in the French Pyrenees. It is a global centre of Marian pilgrimage, receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Roman Catholics believe that Mary, the Mother of God, appeared 18 times at the Grotto to a young girl, Bernadette Soubirous.

Originally a sleepy market town on the road to the spas of the Pyrenees, Lourdes has grown into the largest Marian pilgrimage centre in the world. The town has two sections: the international portion by the river, consisting of the spiritual area containing the Grotto and churches (known as the Domaine or the Sanctuaries), and the "French" portion, centered around the Marketplace & Hotel de Ville.

Get in

There are several trains and buses connecting Lourdes to other French cities. It is also easily accessed by car, and close to the border with Spain.

By car

Lourdes is about 9 hours from Paris via Toulouse and the A64. Lourdes is easily accessed by car, although the narrow streets around the holy sites can become quite congested at weekends and holy days. Roads from the South-West of France and from Spain are also good.

By train

Lourdes train station is just a few hundred metres from the town centre, and offers easy access and clear signs to the Domaine area(look for signs indicating "La Grotte" and "Massabielle"). For information on trains to and from Lourdes, visit the SNCF website [1].

Several trains travel to Lourdes, including TGV service from Paris (six hours) and many trains to and from Pau, Bayonne/Biarritz, and Toulouse. The small SNCF station offers minimal services, but there are free toilets, a small coffee/pastry counter, vending machines, and an adjacent cafe and quick service restaurant (service can be rather surly, even for France). Accessibility is excellent due to the large number of infirm and disabled pilgrims who visit Lourdes and many trains passing through Lourdes offer special services for the disabled.

Night trains from Tours and Paris are available; however, these can be quite uncomfortable as they feature standard, non-reclining seats rather than berths or beds, and lights remain on throughout the trip. However, travel in first class allows for a T4 compartment (2 bunkbeds). Lourdes is a stop rather than the terminus, so know what time you are supposed to arrive and listen for the announcement for Lourdes (there will probably be many others going to Lourdes, especially the elderly or infirm, so you can watch rather than try to decipher the often-unintelligible PA announcements).

By bus

The majority of bus arrivals into Lourdes are charters, run by specific travel agencies for organised Pilgrim groups.

By plane

The nearest airport is Tarbes-Lourdes [2], approximately twenty minutes' drive from the town itself. Air France operate a daily scheduled service from Paris, while a large number of charter flights from all over Europe use the airport also. For further information, see the airport's official site.

Other airports that can be used to access Lourdes are Pau [3], which is approximately 40 minutes' drive away, with potential for train connections, and Toulouse-Blagnac [4], two hours away by train. From the UK and Ireland, Ryanair fly to Biarritz [5], around two hours by road from Lourdes, with train access available also.

By minivan

If you arrive in Toulouse there is also the possibility of a transfer by minivan. Ophorus [6] also organises day tours departing from Toulouse towards the holy city of Lourdes with a guided tour included.

Another possibility is the shuttle TOURSUD [7], which can take up to 7 passengers from Toulouse to Lourdes (or Lourdes-->Toulouse). Look at the website to find out all the excursions organised by the driver-guide Arnaud (in English, Spanish, French). wank me

Get around

On foot

Lourdes is a pedestrian friendly city with several pedestrian only streets and it is very easy to get around the town centre. It really is worth walking and exploring. The town is also used to disabled visitors, help is also readily available.

By car

Lourdes has a complicated one-way street system around town and, because many streets are pedestrian only, it can be confusing and time-consuming getting around town. There are many places to park on the outskirts of the city (especially off the rue de Pau) and walking to the grotto is easy so, if possible, park and walk is the easiest way to get around.


Visit the sacred sites, including the Grotto where St Bernadette saw Mary. Attend mass (dozens on offer in almost every language in the world) somewhere in or around the holy sites. Visit one of the many Bernadette attractions (several museums, her former home, etc.) and best of all: watch the astonishing numbers of pilgrims from all over the world. The Underground Basilica of St. Pius X, a church constructed entirely underground, is especially interesting architecturally.

Especially interesting is the International Mass, held in six languages (English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Dutch) simultaneously in the Underground Basilica of St. Pius X Sunday mornings. Arrive early to get a seat. One wonderful experience is to arrive about 1 1/2 hours early to be part of the choir (open to anyone who arrives early to rehearse). You get to sing with people of all 6 languages and have a excellent view of the Mass.

Don't miss the nightly candlelight procession (buy your candle beforehand from one of the souvenir shops) in front of the Basilica and around the main square, with singing, prayer and a rosary said in many languages (alternating half-decades in English, French, Italian, etc.). The procession of the sick to the Underground Basilica each afternoon is particularly moving, as well. Other religious activities available include confession (available in French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch), adoration, stations of the cross (in the underground basilica), candle lighting near the Grotto, and rosary in front of the Grotto each afternoon (in French) and at other times/places in other languages.

If you have a car, spend a day in the wonderful Pyrenees. Roadtrips to Pont d'Espagne, Gavarnie or de Col de Tourmalet offer breathtaking mountain scenery and lots of opportunities for hiking. There is a historic chateau on a hill visible from the town, as well.


Lourdes has an enormous amount of shops selling all sorts of kitsch and (tacky) religious souvenirs like statuettes of saints, rosaries, candles, containers for storing the water from the source near the Grotto, mugs and fridge magnets. If items like these are your thing, the large Palais du Rosaire offers an enormous selection and will wrap items for you to take home.

Many shops will close for 1 1/2 - 2 hours around lunch; be prepared to be shooed out of the store or hurried along with your purchases if you are shopping around 12:30pm.

Shops often have flags or signs outside indicating the languages (besides the obvious French, usually English, Spanish, and Italian, although sometimes German and Dutch) spoken there.


Good food is available in Lourdes, although you do have to look for it. The dining options are broken into 4 broad categories:

1. Cafés

All the Cafés around the town provide reasonable inexpensive food, concentrating on the standard snacks of pizzas, croques monsieur & madame and sandwiches. Many also offer larger meals, with duck, steaks and chicken regularly on the menu. For good food close to St Joseph's Gate, try the Café au Roi Albert, on the Pont Vieux, the Little Flower Café on the Rue de la Reine Astrid or the New Orleans Café on Rue Sainte-Marie.

2. Hotel Restaurants

Many of the hotels around the town have restaurants available to non-residents, both on a fixed-menu and a la carte basis. Enquire at the Reception desk or view the menu boards outside the hotel. Meal times in most hotels are fixed, as the majority of guests stay on a full-board basis, with lunch at midday and dinner at 7pm.

3. Local Restaurants

There are not many local restaurants in the tourist area of Lourdes, but there are some in the town itself. The closest ones to the Domaine are:

Pizza da Marco - on the Rue de la Grotte, at the top of the hill. A standard Italian pizzeria, with good food but erratic service, especially when busy.

Restaurant Alexandra - on the Rue de Fort, off the Rue de la Grotte. This small family-run restaurant specialises in local delicacies, and has an intimate atmosphere.

Brasserie de la Grotte - on the the Rue de la Grotte, part of the four-star Hotel de la Grotte. A good brasserie with a pleasant atmosphere, dishes are excellent, but expensive.

4. Restaurants outside the town

If you have transport, it's worth your while travelling outside the town itself to eat, as several restaurants in the locality are excellent.

In the small village of Bartrès, there are two recommended restaurants, the Restaurant Au Bon Accueil and La Petite Bergère. Both are family-run and specialise in good food from the local region. This sleepy village is a ten-minute drive from Lourdes and also has associations with St Bernadette.


The famous water, of course (free!). Bring your own bottles, or buy one of the thousands containers or jerrycans (or one of the tasteful plastic bottles in the shape of a Mary statuette) available at almost every shop in town.


Lourdes offers dozens, if not hundreds of hotels in and around Lourdes. There is a special youth village on the left side of the Gave river offering accommodation and facilities to young people.

Because of the large supply, accommodations can be found for extremely cheap, with double rooms in hotels rivaling hostel prices (for example, 40 euros for a double room, 20 split between two people).

  • Parc National des Pyrénées
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also lourdes



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun




  1. A town in the French Pyrenees, and site of a large Catholic pilgrimage
  2. A female given name, from the Spanish epithet of Virgin Mary as Nuestra Señora de Lourdes.




Shortened from María (de) Lourdes, a Roman Catholic epithet of the Virgin Mary as "Our Lady of Lourdes".

Proper noun

Lourdes f.

  1. A female given name.

Simple English

File:Lourdes cathedral cave side
The majority of visitors are pilgrims who fill the public spaces of the Domain

Lourdes (Occitan name Lorda) is a town and commune in the southwest of the Hautes-Pyrénées department. It is in the first Pyrenean foothills, in southwestern France.

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 rock. Following the claims that there were 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 around 15,000 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 about 270 establishments.

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


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