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Over 150 years ago in Lourdes, a very small town in the south of France, a young girl called Bernadette Soubirous was collecting wood from near the river, when she noticed a cave suddenly glow with warm, golden light. From this light, a beautiful woman dressed in a pure-white dress and roses on her feet appeared. This lady was the Virgin Mary, but Bernadette did not know this. Bernadette only knew that this lady was very special and that she was witnessing something important. Our Lady asked Bernadette to say her Rosary; they did this together and Our Lady disappeared.
Bernadette did not understand what she had just experienced. When she told her friends, they did not believe her. But not being able to forget about what she had seen, Bernadette returned to the same place and Our Lady appeared to her again.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared 18 times to Bernadette between 11 February and 16 July 1858. A number of messages were left with Bernadette, including a call to pray for sinners and to build a chapel on the site. To find out more about St Bernadette and the apparitions, click here.
The town of Lourdes quickly built the chapel that Our Lady had asked for, and this is one of the many chapels that we still see there today. Ever since Bernadette saw Our Lady all those years ago, people have been visiting Lourdes on a special holiday called a Pilgrimage. Since the 1950s, HCPT has been taking young people on this special holiday to Lourdes, following in the footsteps of Bernadette and experiencing the same love that Our Lady showed to her. We go because Our Lady requested us to 'go in procession', keeping in mind everything that makes us who we are - our families, our friends, our talents and our faith. Within the Domain around Lourdes, there are a number of distinct areas which we visit as part of our pilgrimage to Lourdes.
It was at the Grotto in Lourdes that Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette on eighteen separate occasions in 1858.
There are three churches built over the Grotto. The Rosary Basilica has fifteen side chapels, each of which have a large mosaic depicting one of the mysteries of the Rosary. Above this is The Crypt, a smaller chapel, opened in 1866. At the top, above these two, is The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception or Upper Basilica. This was the last to be opened in 1872.
The Rosary Square
The main square in front of the Basilicas is the Rosary Square. Here each evening the Torchlight Procession concludes. The square can accommodate over 40,000 people.
The Basilica of Saint Pius X
The Basilica of Saint Pius X or the Underground Basilica is under the ground between St Michael's Gate and the Statue of the Crowned Virgin. Despite the Basilica representing a 'concrete car park', on the Thursday morning of Easter week, the building comes alive in a rainbow of colours as the HCPT Trust Mass is celebrated.