Pilgrimages of Europe: Lourdes, France (1995)
Pilgrimages are as old as mankind. The mystical and spiritual nature of a pilgrimage holds an eternal, mythic appeal to the imagination of many people. Every year millions of pilgrims of all nationalities, young and old, set out on these voyages of the soul. Every year millions of pilgrims of all nationalities, young and old, set out on these voyages of the soul. The twelve documentaries in the Pilgrimages of Europe collection are experiential journeys to some of the most sacred routes and holy places throughout Christian Europe. Each half-hour documentary, richly filmed, looks at the spiritual, cultural and historical background of an important pilgrimage sites throughout Europe. However, the people, the pilgrims themselves, are at the heart of these stories – their purposes and desires, their motivations, and the great sense of the holy and the sacred which they find on their journeys of faith.
The story of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes has been recorded in detail in handwritten documents. In the mid-1800s Lourdes was an obscure village in the south of France at the foot of the Pyrenees. The Soubirous family was reduced to poverty when Monsieur Soubirous lost his job at the water mill due to an accident. Bernadette, his eldest child, was often sent to collect wood. On an icy day in February 1858, she saw a vision of a white lady in a grotto by the river. During the last of 18 apparitions, the lady revealed her identity, calling herself the Immaculate Conception. Each year, especially in summer, special trains depart from all points of Europe bound for Lourdes, which has become the major pilgrimage site for the sick and infirm. Large groups of bedridden patients and the disabled are acompanied by helpers, including doctors and nurses. They visit the site in the grotto where Mary appeared, and where so many have been cured by the holy waters.
Lourdes (Occitan: Lorda) is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrenees department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in south-western France.
Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees, famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes that are reported to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous. At that time, the most prominent feature of the town was the fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its centre. Following the reports that Our Lady of Lourdes had appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on a total of eighteen occasions, Lourdes has developed into a major place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage and of alleged miraculous healings. The 150th Jubilee of the first apparition took place on 11 February 2008 with an outdoor mass attended by approximately 45,000 pilgrims.
Today Lourdes has a population of around 15,000 but is able to take in some 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists every season. With about 270 hotels, Lourdes has the second greatest number of hotels per square kilometre in France after Paris.
It is the joint seat of the Diocese of Tarbes-et-Lourdes and is the largest pilgrimage site in France, the second site being the Basilica of St. Thérèse (Lisieux), in Normandie.