(RE)INTRODUCTION TO BERNADETTE AND LOURDES
Wikipedia gives a concise history of Lourdes which I will further condense here:
A miracle, an eagle dropping a trout at the feet of the defender of the fortress of this village, Mirat, led him to convert to Christianity and surrender to Charlemagne. Upon his baptism he changed his name to Lorus, which became the name of the town, Lourdes.
During the fourteenth century the town and its surrounding area became British territory, it was recaptured during the Hundred Years' War, in the next century, after an 18-month siege! A century later the area was again devastated by war, the Wars of Religion which restored Catholicism in the region at the expense of the defeated Huguenots, a Protestant faith.
The castle twice was turned into a jail, once under Louis the XVth, once under Napoleon.
In the early 19th century Lourdes was a quiet town with a population of about 4,000. The castle was now occupied by an infantry garrison.
The town was just a place people passed through on their way to other locales in the region with warm springs and high mountains. This changed in 1858.
It was on 11 February 1858 that 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous saw a beautiful lady in an alcove that is part of a small grotto near the town.
A year later, convinced the lady was Mary, the mother of Jesus, thousands came to this small town on pilgrimages. It has become one of Catholicism's more important pilgrimage sites. Pope John Paul II visited twice, enhancing the religious significance and prestige of the site.
A year ago I visited the town of Nevers in northern France and told the story of Bernadette of Lourdes, who worked, lived, and died there. If you have not looked at this material on Bernadette's short life, and are interested in her life, please use the first link in the section of links that follows. Be warned, however, that what is linked is my interpretation of her life, a respectful interpretation, but an unbeliever's interpretation. If you are a believer, I suggest you read one of the more faith-promoting accounts of her life, like the second book I mention in last year's story of Bernadette's life and mission.
We arrived by train from Paris, and chose to stay at this hotel in part because it is literally across the street
from the train station, making luggage handling easy.
Since the hotel was on a ridge above the town, views from the hotel were very nice, like this one toward the parish church, the Sacred Heart church, the castle, and the Pyrenees beyond:
A few steps down the street plus bit of telephoto magic shows the castle a bit closer up:
We were lucky that there was some Fall foliage left so late in November.
From the hotel's balcony, the views changed with the angle of the sun and the clouds, so the view was never the same twice.
Only once in our three-day stay did one of the higher peaks of the Pyrenees actually become wholly visible, contrast this photo with the next one taken in the same direction:
What peak is that? I don't know, but the highlands in the distance are part of the Ordesa y Mont Perdido National Park, which I have previously approached from the Spanish side. I need to come back here in a warmer time and explore these mountains. There was no opportunity for such an adventure this time.
There was opportunity, however, to visit the sites important to the life of Bernadette, so let's get to those sites, after just one more detour to see the castle up close and look out over the city from there on the next page.
Our walks will take us from the "you are here " red sign, on the right of the map below, to the castle and the grotto and the basilica, all near the river to the left on the map, and into the heart of the town as well, where the parish church is, and where Bernadette lived.
Go to Second Lourdes Page; the Castle
Go to Third Lourdes Page: The Boly Mill
Go to Fourth Lourdes Page: The Cachot
Go to Fifth Lourdes Page: The Grotto
Go to Sixth Lourdes Page: The Basilica and Its Grounds
Go to Seventh Lourdes Page: The Parish Church
Go to Eighth Lourdes Page: The Way of the Cross -A
Go to Ninth Lourdes Page: The Way of the Cross -B:
Go to Tenth Lourdes Page: The Way of the Cross -C
Go to previous pages about Bernadette's life and revelations.
Go to previous pages about Nevers, France, where the adult Bernadette lived and died.
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