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Origins of the Sanctuary

The origin of this devotion comes from the experience of one person and a chain of events that happened to her: Bernadette Soubirous and the apparitions of Virgin Mary.

In the 19th century, Lourdes was a small village of 4,000 inhabitants. Bernadette Soubirous was born in January 7th 1844 in the Boly Mill, one of the many mills present in the area. During 10 years, she and her family lived and worked there. A chain of unfortunate events hit the family: the father lost an eye in a working accident, later on he was accused of stealing several sacks of flour and he went to prison, an important drough ruined the weat harvest and the mill went out of business.

In addition to this, a cholera epidemic devastated Lourdes. Bernadette got sick too and she would suffer the consequences of the cholera and tuberculosis for the rest of her life. Bernadette´s family, submerged in poverty, must leave the mill and move to the building of an old prison (“le chalot”, jail).

On February 11th 1858, Bernadette and two other girls went to the forest to pick up some firewood. Suddenly, she saw a light with the shape of a young woman in the grotto she was at. This was the first of the 18 apparitions she witnessed.

As a result of these events, the first pilgrims arrived and a chapel was built in the place. This chapel would later become the sanctuary as we know it today. People of any race or language, believes or culture, arrive to the call of the message.


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