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