Visiting Lourdes in France was the focal point as to why I flew to UK in 2016. The boyfriend, his parents and I went on a short but meaningful trip to Lourdes, a town devoted to honoring the Virgin Mary whose series of apparitions were seen by a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous (now St. Bernadette). Before I share with you the different pilgrimage stages and works of mercy that we did and participated in, I want to show you first the sanctuary built around where the apparitions took place.
One of the most visited shrines in the Christian world, the main destination in Lourdes is the Sanctuaires Notre-dame de Lourdes or commonly known as Domain, a 51-hectare area owned by the Roman Catholic Church with 22 places of worships within. Sick pilgrims, especially, visit to drink and be healed by the miraculous water of Lourdes. Across the week, we, as with the thousands of Catholic pilgrimages who were also in town, visited the sanctuary daily and participate in different pilgrimage stages and works of mercy.
The Domain has 3 main churches, the Rosary Basilica, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and the Crypt.
Rosary Basilica. The first church you’ll see and access when entering the Domain, it has a semi-circle facade and a dome surmounted with a massive golden crown and cross gifted from Ireland.
(L-R) Spire of the Upper Basilica, archways at the right when facing the Rosary Basilica leading to the grotto and river, gilded crown and cross atop the dome.
A white marble sculpture of Mary handing a rosary to St. Dominic fronts the Rosary Basilica. A banner underneath is seen with the phrase Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii, o.p.n. which translates to Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Arches at the left of the Rosary Basilica are designed with mosaic depictions of angels, saints and Mary. The Domain has six official languages: French, English, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and German, these languages are used across different religious functions (procession, rosary, mass). You can see the third arch with a Spanish passage: Escucha, ponlo en tu corazon which translates to Listen, put it in your heart.
Porte de la Vie, Door of Life.
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, or Upper Basilica, can be accessed via the stairways on each side of the Rosary Basilica. The church is constructed on top of the rock of Massabielle where the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes took place.
From the Upper Basilica, you will have a view of the open space of the sanctuary called the Rosary Square. A bronze statue of the Crowned Virgin, painted in white and blue, stands at the center of the square. She carries a rosary with 6 decades.
The photo above was taken when we participated in the Torchlight Procession held at the Rosary Square, fronting the Rosary Basilica.
A panoramic view across the river showing the arches of the Rosary Basilica, the Upper Basilica and the crypt (underneath the Upper Basilica).
Relics of St. Bernadette in one of the chapels.
A pilgrim prays to Our Lady of Lourdes.
The area surrounding the rock of Massabielle and grotto. Pilgrims can attend mass in this area, pray the rosary as one of the pilgrimage stages and works of mercy or line up to touch the reachable part of Massabielle where the miraculous water infinitely flows (drops from the rock).
The grotto where the actual apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes took place.
The Church of St. Bernadette was built across the grotto where St. Bernadette stood on the final and 18th apparition. There are multiple places of worship inside.
A sculpture near one of the entrances of the sanctuary depicting Mary saving the sick.
I, first, learned about Lourdes from my boyfriend who attended a Catholic school in the UK which flies them once to participate in a pilgrimage. We’ve talked about Lourdes multiple times but he pronounces Lourdes as /Lourds/ (one syllable) and it took me so long to realize that she’s the same Our Lady of Lourdes here in the Philippines which we pronounce as /Lour-des/ (two syllables). Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to go at the time of his batch trip, so he, his parents, and I planned to go together last year.
I’ve, always, only associated the Vatican to Catholic Church before. Majority of the Filipinos are Catholics and we are accustomed to local pilgrimages and grand feast celebrations where devotees from across the country participate in. Some of the most popular here are religious celebrations for Quiapo’s Black Nazarene and Cebu’s Sto. Niño. Although, logically, it is very much possible that such a place exist, however, it was still surreal to learn of Lourdes’ history and the fact that we can visit the shrine devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes where the actual apparitions happened.