France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Lourdes, France Guide
Miraculous visions were reported in the small town of Lourdes in the foothills of the Pyrénées of southwestern France. Now millions of pilgrims come each year to share the spirit of the miracle.




Lourdes, on the River Gave de Pau in the foothills of the Pyrénées mountains in southwestern France, is a religious and touristic phenomenon. Nearly six million visitors come to this small French town every year, far outnumbering the town's native population of 15,000 souls.

Most of the visitors are pilgrims coming to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, to see the place where a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous is said to have witnessed visions of the Virgin Mary. The first vision was reportedly on February 11, 1858. Seventeen more visions were to follow.

The Sanctuary, or Domaine, is a a 51-hectare (126-acre) park-like preserve including the Grotto of Massabielle where Bernadette saw her visions, with a series of three churches (the Crypt, the Upper Basilica and the Rosary Basilica) on the hill above the grotto.

Beneath the plaza in front of the three churches, the enormous underground Basilica of St Pius X can accommodate 25,000 worshippers at once.

All in all, the Sanctuary includes 22 places of worship as well as a Welcome Center, medical and other church offices and facilities.

Apart from the Sanctuary, Lourdes look like a minor mountain resort, with peaks on the outskirts, its river lined with hotels and sidewalk cafés, its streets busy with souvenir shops and crowds of holiday-makers.

But Lourdes is no minor resort: in France, it is second only to Paris in the number of hotels it supports (350) and the number of beds it makes available to visitors (40,000). More...

Virgin Mary, Lourdes, France
Statue of the Virgin Mary in the grotto...

If you are a Roman Catholic, the religious significance of Lourdes is obvious, but even non-Catholics can enjoy a visit to the Sanctuary, its facilities, and this French town in the foothills of the Pyrénées.

Lourdes is an easy trip from Pau, about 45 kilometers (29 miles), less than an hour's drive. It's 174 kilometers (108 miles) from Toulouse, and just slightly less (159 kilometers/99 miles) from Biarritz.

Hotels in Lourdes

What to See & Do in Lourdes

Tourist Information in Lourdes

Massabielle Cave/Grotto

Lourdes Basilicas

Processions in Lourdes

Shopping in Lourdes

Pyrénées Region



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Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, France

Above, Three churches—one atop the other—stand above the Grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes. Note the crowd of worshippers on the riverbank waiting to enter the grotto.

Below, Statue of the Virgin Mary at the Massabielle Grotto, Lourdes.


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