Pilgrimage in the Pyrenees

Paulo Coelho – one of the most prolific writers in the world (and one of my absolute favourites), spends half his time in the south of France only to be close to one place – the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

July 2011. We were already in Toulouse. Lourdes was just a couple of hours away. We decided to pay a visit. An idyllic town, Lourdes is nestled at the foothill of the Pyrenees.

It is believed that in 1858, a poor peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, in a cave by the Gave de Pau river that flows through Lourdes. This incident repeated itself on 18 different occasions and soon, people from nearby villages began to flock to the town with their prayers and petitions.

These days, over 5 million pilgrims of every religion and nationality, come to Lourdes every year. To meet the ever-increasing flow of people, this little town has nearly 300 hotels – the second highest density of hotels in France, second only to Paris.

We set out in the early hours of morning and the drive past rural pastures and green open spaces, was very refreshing. As we approached Lourdes, the majestic Pyrenees began to loom on the horizon.

Pyrenees - Lourdes, France

Approaching Lourdes, at the foothill of the scenic Pyrenees

We parked at a distance from the shrine and walked there.

Lourdes, France

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

It was deeply moving to watch the old and the sick make their way to the Sanctuary with their chaperones. With their unwavering faith, they had come from far away lands, in the hope of a miracle, a panacea for their pain, in the waters of Lourdes.

Lourdes, France

The sick and old in their wheelchairs headed to the Sanctuary

We walked around the Sanctuary that includes 3 basilicas, 2 churches, 2 chapels and several other places of worship. Here are a few pictures from our time there:

A view of Rosary Square and the town, from the Upper Basilica. Lourdes Fort is on the horizon.

A view of Rosary Square and the town, from the Upper Basilica. The medieval Lourdes Fort is in the background.

The Virgin Mother handing a Rosary to St. Dominic, depicted in marble at the entrance of the Rosary Basilica

The Virgin Mary handing a rosary to St. Dominic, depicted in marble above the entrance to the Rosary Basilica

Inside view of the dome of the Rosary Basilica, built in Byzantine style

The 15 Mysteries of the Rosary depicted in mosaic on the walls of the Rosary Basilica

The 15 Mysteries of the Rosary are depicted in mosaic on the walls of the Rosary Basilica (circa 1900)

Masabielle - the grotto where St. Bernadette saw a vision of the Virgin Mary

Masabielle – the grotto where St. Bernadette saw visions of the Virgin Mary. The water that springs from this grotto is believed to have miraculous, healing properties.

The Upper Basilica seems to emerge from the Masabielle rock

The Upper Basilica seems to emerge from the Masabielle rock

The faithful in prayer, outside the grotto

The faithful in prayer outside the grotto. The Gave de Pau flows alongside.

We spent the day visiting the various places of worship in the Sanctuary and paying our respects. Soon it was time to head back to Toulouse.

I was told, Paulo Coelho, lives in a nearby town, about 10-15 miles from Lourdes. Maybe a detour was in order. That would have been a pilgrimage of another kind 🙂

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under Europe, France

8 responses to “Pilgrimage in the Pyrenees

  1. Beautiful Anne! Maybe someday we can make the pilgrimage to meet Paulo together…:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Charlie

    Enchanting, Anne !! Keep it up !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ditoza

    Brought back so many memories Anne. I have left a piece of my heart in Lourdes

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shivangi Parikh

    Lovely read! This seems like such an interesting place to visit.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s