About six milion pilgrims from all parts of the world visit the sanctuary in Lourdes every year. Those six milion pilgrims have a deep impact on the economy of Lourdes. The little town is stocked by hotels, souvenirshops and restaurants.
In 1858 the “Immaculate Conception” (Holy Virgin Mary) appeared 18 times to 14 years old Bernadette Soubirous in a cave (Grotto) just outside the village of Lourdes. Lourdes is situated in the first Pyrenean foothills in south-western France. During one of those appearings a water spring started in the cave. The spring water is believed by some to possess healing properties. The Roman Catholic Church has recognized several miraculous healings. Pilgrims are given the possibility to drink the water and bath themselves in it. Because Bernadette oft carried a burning candle with her during the appearings of Holy Virgin Mary a light up candle has become a second symbol for the sanctuary.
Throughout the year it’s possible to light a candle in or next the cave. In the summerseason there is a candlelight procession daily.
The Holy Virgin Mary ordered Bernadette to build a chapel nearby the cave. In 1866 the first one has been consecrated. Because of the overwhelming attendance of pilgrims the chapel has become crampted very quickly. Two extra basilicas have been build since.
Bernadette Soubirous went into the monastry in Never, where she died in 1879. Her body never decayed and still lies in state here. In 1933 Pope Pius XI declared her as a saint.