Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees in France. It lies at an elevation of 420 m and in a central position through which runs the fast-flowing river Gave de Pau. Every year, Lourdes is visited by millions of pilgrims, they come to see the site of a famous vision experienced by a young girl called Bernadette Soubirous.
Pilgrims may visit to be cleansed of their sins and to be cured of their illnesses. It is believed that spring water from the grotto can heal people if they are sick. Millions of visitors come to Lourdes each year in the hope of being cured. The one of the reasons for pilgrims to go to Lourdes, is to bathe in the spring water, to be fully immersed into the bath and drink the water for cleansing and healing. The bath is a symbol of baptism and also strengthening the faith of the pilgrims.
The history began on 11th February 1858, as Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old local girl, went out with her sister Toinette, and a friend Jeanne, to fetch firewood near the local grotto. Suddenly, a lady appeared to her in a brilliant white dress tied with a blue ribbon; her body was covered with a long white veil that fell to her feet. This lady later identified herself as "the Immaculate Conception" which is an attribute of Santa Maria.
Santa Maria then appeared 18 times to Bernadette, and on 25th February She asked the girl to dig up a spring of water where none had been found before. Santa Maria told her “Go and drink at the Spring and wash yourself there”. Even though this area was muddy, the next day, the ground flowed with clear water. Almost immediately cures were reported from drinking the water, and since then many people were cured by applying or drinking the water. The Spring water of Lourdes became popular because of the miracles associated with it.
What is particularly striking to the casual visitor is the number of sick and disabled people present in Lourdes. All those traumatised by life may find a certain degree of comfort in Lourdes. Officially, 80,000 sick and disabled people from many countries come to Lourdes each year. Despite their wounds or disabilities, they feel they are in a haven of peace and joy.