Lourdes Miracle

Our Lady of Lourdes, the miracle of the spring water.


The pilgrimage of Lourdes has for origin 18 appearances of the Virgo Marie to Bernadette Soubirous in the cave of Massabielle in 1858. Thousands of miracles occurred since, 66 were authenticated according to the protocol of a special committee.
It attracts six million believers every year.

Bernadette Soubirous

Bernadette Soubirous was born on January 7th, 1844 in a very poor practising family. Her education is very limited, she speaks about the dialect, her activity often amounts to keep.

On February 11th, 1858, shecollects some wood died near the cave at feet of the cliff of Massabielle, when she listens of the noise: " as I raised the head by looking at the cave, I perceived a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue belt and a yellow rose on every foot, of the colour of the chain of its rosary; the grains of her rosary were white.
The Lady made me sign of the finger approach me; but I was seized, I did not dare; believing to be in front of an illusion, I rubbed myself eyes, but in vain; I still looked and I always saw the same Lady. "

It is the first appearance. Both children who accompanied this day Bernadette, a little taken away at the time of the appearance, saw nothing. They understand however that an important event took place. Bernadette, pressing of questions, eventually tells to them in exchange for the promise to keep the secret. But the children fast run to tell what they have just learnt.
In the 3rd appearance, on February 18th, the Lady speaks for the first time.
The 9th time, the "Lady" asks to Bernadette to go to scratch the ground, in the heart of the cave, by saying: " go to the source, drink and wash you there. " It is then that a net of muddy water begins to flow, that Bernadette drinks all the same. The water becomes, bit by bit, transparent and pure.
In the 13th appearance, the "Lady" says: " go to say to the priests that we build here a chapel and that we come in procession there. "
During the 16th appearance, on March 25th, 1858, Bernadette asks to the "Lady" to say her*} name. It is that to the fourth demand that the answer is given in dialect: " that soy era Immaculada Counceptiou " is " I am Spotless Conception. "
The last appearance, the 18th, takes place on July 16th, 1858.

Meanwhile, the interrogations and the cross-examinations, the threats, succeeded one another. The recognition of the facts will come only in January, 1862 by Mgr. Laurence: " the testimony of the girl presents all the guarantees which we can wish. [] we judge that Spotless Marie, Mother of God, really appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, February 11th, 1858 and next days, among eighteen times "
From this moment, the cave of Lourdes becomes a place of pilgrimage.

Having decided to be religious, in July, 1866, Bernadette leaves to the sisters of the charity of Nevers (Saint-Gildard convent), where she wants to live the " message of punishment of Massabielle ". The superior Mother, although liking it, will judge it "drifter".
Bernadette will spend the last 13 years of her life, mostly sick, reached by badly looked pneumonia, and will never revise Kick out and her cave.
She pronounces her wishes in September, 1878 only and dies on April 16th, 1879 in Nevers which she did not leave.

September 22nd, 1909, first exhumation, in the presence of numerous clerics, doctors and policemen, reveals an intact body. The second, on April 3rd, 1919, confirms the incorruptibility. The third and last takes place on April 18th, 1925, to open the way to the beatification and the taking of relics.
On June 14th, 1925, the pope Pie XI proclaims "Happy" Bernadette, and on July 18th, 1925, the body is definitively deposited in the coffin of visible glass in the chapel St Gildard in Nevers. Her canonization is pronounced in 1933.

The pilgrimage of Lourdes

While St Jacques de Compostelle's pilgrimage is typically an internal step, a cultural journey and lastly a physical test, the pilgrimage of Lourdes is at first a hope for all the seriously ill persons, motivated by the important number of physical or spiritual cures declared by the participants. It is also a place of visit for tourists, what what pulled a prosperous business.

The cave of Massabielle.

The pilgrims go to the mass in the church, in the subterranean church, in the procession around the cave, fill their gourd or their bottle of supernatural water, light wax candles, recite prayers, participate in torchlight tattooes, ask for favours, for cures. Processions are rather voluminous because of the presence of numerous patients and not autonomous handicapped persons conveyed in their armchair even their stretcher by members of their family and the volunteers.

On August 14th and 15th, 2004, the presence of the Pope Jean-Paul II made 300 000 pilgrims come and spectators.
The miracles of Lourdes
The statements of miracles of the pilgrims are received to the medical Office from Lourdes. Only 66 cures were officially considered "supernatural" by the Church.
The first miracle occurred on March 1st, 1858: Catherine Latapie's cure; the 65th in 1976; the last one in 1987, Jean-Pierre Bély, cured of a multiple sclerosis following the pilgrimage, the cure having been recognized supernatural in February, 1999.
The criteria were defined by the pope Benoît XIV: " the disease must be incurable, known well by the medicine and by the organic origin or lésionnelle. The patient does not have to be under treatment for this disease. And the cure must be spontaneous, real and durable. "
The procedure of gratitude lasts generally from five to fifteen years, with interrogations, of experts and constitution of a file. Once a year, the international medical Committee of Lourdes, consisted of 20 members, meets and decides, with a two-thirds majority, to accept or to refuse the statements of unexplained cures by the medicine. The file returns to the Church which decides definitively.
On 7000 successful statements, much more than 66 are authentic, the proof? The patches of thanking!. The one who lived a miracle or who considers it as such has no doubt in the heart of itself and has big no thing to be gained in such a step, if it is not the risk of tarnishing its beautiful adventure.
As gets it certain number of "spiritual" therapies, most of the time there is no physical cure, generally for reason karmique, but an irreversible click in the vision of the life, which shows it under a totally different angle, and which makes bearable what was not it.

Bernadette Soubirous (Bernadeta Sobirons occitan), of his true name Marie-Bernarde Soubiroux (Maria Bernada Sobeirons), been born on January 7th, 1844 in Lourdes, and died on April 16th, 1879 in Nevers, is a holy Catholic, famous to have indicated the appearances of the Virgo in a cave of his home town.


His parents, François Soubirous ( 1807-1871 ) and Louise Castérot ( 1825-1866 ), exploit the mill of Boly, where she was born, until 1854. Soubirous which had, as it is said, made a love marriage, had on the whole nine children among whom five died in bottom-age. Bernadette is the elder daughter.. By that time, the domestic company is ruined (too craft for this time of industrialization, and doubtless badly managed). Bernadette knows the famine and the disease, she knows hardly how to read and write. Of fragile health (she is notably asthmatic), she appears less than her age. She is besides beautiful girl, according to the testimonies of time and as give evidence of it the photos which were taken by her. her;its*} religious feeling is already very strong even if she ignores about everything of the catechism (« [] if the Virgin Mary chose me, it is because I was the most ignorant! » She will say later).

The relatives of Bernadette send him at her*} godmother's and aunt, Bernarde Castérot ( 1823-1907 ), who uses him as handmaid on the house and on the counter of the cabaret.

Soubirous moves for a cell of the ancient prison of the High street, nicknamed The prison (that we can visit at present) and where they accommodate to six in 3,77 x 4,40 m. In 1857, François Soubirous is accused (apparently wrongly) of the theft of two bags of flour. He is sent to prison. The Soubirous family is for a period of black distress.


Bernadette testifies of appearances of the Virgo from 1858. During her ninth appearance, she follows the indications of the Virgo and discovers a source of water at feet of the cave of Massabielle, in Lourdes. Between February 11th and July 16th, 1858, the Virgo appears to her eighteen times.

1. Thursday, February 11th, 1858. With his sister Marie ( 1846-1892 ), said Toinette, and Jeanne Abadie, a friend, Bernadette goes along the Mountain stream to collect bones and dead wood. Because of her precarious health, she hesitates to cross the Mountain stream, ice-cold, as her sister and her friend. She is then surprised by a noise and raises the head towards the cave of Massabielle: « I perceived a lady dressed in white: she concerned a white dress, a white veil also, a blue belt and a yellow rose every foot ». Bernadette recites a prayer, the lady disappears.
2. Sunday, February 14th, 1858. her parents forbid Bernadette to return to the cave. She insists, they give up. On the spot, she recites rosaries and sees appearing the lady. She throws her some holy water. The lady smiles, tilts the head and disappears.
3. Thursday, February 18th, 1858. Bernadette, under the pressure of a lourdaise middle-class person, ask to the lady to write her name. This one answers her: « it is not necessary ». Then she adds « I does not promise you to make you happy in this world but in the other one. Do you want to have the grace to come here during fortnight? »
4. Friday, February 19th, 1858. Bernadette comes to the Cave with a blessed and lit wax candle (what became, since, a custom). The lady appears briefly.
5. Saturday, February 20th, 1858. The lady teaches a personal prayer to Bernadette who, at the end of her vision, is seized with a big sadness.
6. Sunday, February 21st, 1858. Hundred of persons accompany Bernadette. The lady appears (to only Bernadette) and the chief constable Jacomet interrogates him about what she saw. Bernadette contents with repeating: « aquer ò » (it)
7. Tuesday, February 23rd, 1858. Accompanied with hundred and fifty persons, Bernadette goes to the cave where the appearance reveals her a secret « only for her ».
8. Wednesday, February 24th, 1858. The lady passes on a message to Bernadette: « punishment! Punishment! Punishment! Ask God for the sinners! Go to kiss the ground in punishment for the sinners! »
9. Thursday, February 25th, 1858. Three hundred persons are present. Bernadette explains that the lady asks her to drink to the source: « go to drink to the fountain and to wash yourselves there. You will eat of this herb which is there. ». Bernadette will tell later: « I found only a little muddy water. In the fourth attempt I could drink. ». The crowd accuses it of being crazy and she answers: « it is for the sinners ».
10. Saturday, February 27th, 1858. Eight hundred persons accompany Bernadette. The Appearance remains silent, Bernadette drinks the water.
11. Sunday, February 28th, 1858. Two thousand persons attend the ecstasy of Bernadette which prays, kisses the ground, the banister on knees. The judge Ribes threatens it with prison.
12. Monday, March 1st, 1858. One thousand five hundred persons accompany Bernadette, of whom, for the first time, a priest. Same night, Catherine Latapie, a friend of Bernadette, surrenders to the Cave and dips the arm dislocated in the water of the source: the arm and the hand find all their flexibility.
13. Tuesday, March 2nd, 1858. The crowd is very important. The lady asks Bernadette: « go to say to the priests that we come here in procession and that we build a chapel there ». The abbot Peyramale, the priest of Lourdes wants to know the name of the lady and requires on top a precise proof: he wants to see decorating with flowers the rosebush / dog rose bush of the Cave in full winter.
14. Wednesday, March 3rd, 1858. Three thousand persons accompany Bernadette. The vision does not come. Later, Bernadette feels called and returns to the cave where she asks for her name to the Lady who answers her by a smile. The priest Peyramale insists: « if the Lady really wishes a chapel, that she says her name and that she made decorate with flowers the rosebush of the Cave »
15. Thursday, March 4th, 1858. Approximately eight thousand persons wait for a miracle in the cave. The vision is silent. During twenty days, Bernadette does not feel any more the invitation to surrender to the cave.
16. Thursday, March 25th, 1858. The appearance shows itself to Bernadette and says it occitan bigourdan - the language about which spoke Bernadette-, raising eyes in the sky and joining the hands: « that one er' immaculada concepcion ». Bernadette retains these words, which she does not understand, and runs to say them to the priest, who is disturbed: four years earlier, the pope Pie IX made of the Spotless expression conception a dogma and a said Bernadette ignore that she indicates the Virgo. The rosebush did not still bloom.
17. Wednesday, April 7th, 1858. The doctor Douzous notices that the flame of the wax candle which holds Bernadette during the appearance surrounds the hand without burning her.
18. Thursday, July 16th, 1858. It is the last appearance. A fence forbids the access to the cave. Bernadette crosses the Mountain stream and sees the virgin exactly as if she was in front of the cave.

The recognition of the appearances by the Church

July 28th, 1858, is twelve days only after the last appearance, Mgr. Laurence, bishop of Tarbes, gathers a board of inquiry intended to establish the credit which the Church has to bring to Bernadette Soubirous's assertions. This committee is in charge of verifying the validity of the announced "miracles", by collecting different testimonies and the opinions of scientists or people of Church. She is also in charge of interrogating Bernadette whose sincerity will seem "indisputable" dixit ) to the bishop: « Who admires, in the similar, the simplicity, the innocence, the modesty of this child? She speaks only when we interrogate him; then she tells everything without affectation, with a moving innocence, and, the numerous questions which we send her, she makes, without hesitating, net, precise, full answers of conveniently, printed by a strong conviction ». The fact that the girl repeats words said by the Virgo which she could (as it is then thought) not to know in consideration about its lack of instruction, will be a decisive argument.

Meanwhile, the crowd of the pilgrims coming to see the cave and to ask it of the help Marie does not stop growing, come people of all Europe and new testimonies of miracles accumulate. « If we have to judge the tree by its fruits, we can say that the appearance told by the girl is supernatural and divine; because she produced supernatural and divine effects »

Four years later, on January 18th, 1862, the bishop returns his opinion - favorable: « we judge that Spotless Marie, Mother of God, really appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, February 11th, 1858 and the next days, among eighteen times, in the cave of Massabielle, near the city of Lourdes; that this appearance dresses all the characters of the truth, and that the believers are based to consider it sure. We subject humbly our judgment to the Judgment of the Supreme Pontiff, which is in charge of governing the universal Church ».

And so Kick out, modest administrative centre of Pyrenees, carefully avoided by the thermal tourism then in full explosion - her water had no curative properties attributed awarded to those of Luchon, Cauterets or Bagnères-de-Bigorre - fast became the tourist area the most frequented by the region. An often forgotten fact: to Garaison (today, Monléon-Magnoac, in 70 km of Lourdes), a named appointed girl Anglèze de Sagasan had asserted having heard understood the virgin to ask her to build a chapel near the source. It took place by 1520. The chapel was well built and the city was a place of worship and religious tourism in the next centuries.

The departure for Nevers

Bernadette wished to make her*} religious community and for it, she had to learn to read and to write in Frenchman. She is thus supposed at " the school of the needy ", to the orphanage of Lourdes, held since 1836 by the Sisters of the Charity of Nevers. There, she educates itself, learns to read and learns the catechism and a profession. The observers of time note that her meditation in prayer is impressive, but that she is also cheerful, cheerful, roguish and rather authoritarian with her partners - which appreciate him nevertheless a lot. After reflection she choist the congregation of the Sisters of the charity of Nevers to live her desire of religious life. The Parent company of the congregation is in Nevers. With her superiors, she is of a tried and tested obedience, as shows of it an anecdote: we had forbidden Bernadette to return to the cave and we asked him: « if the Virgo ordered you to go there, that you would make? ». Bernadette answered: « I would mean asking for the permission to Sir Priest ».

Outside, we begin to return a disturbing cult to the bigourdane young person. her;its*} photo is sold itself, newspapers speak about her, we want to see her. The wisest is to take away him from Lourdes. Certain persons, as the British essayist Ruth Harris (Kick out. The big history of the appearances, pilgrimages and cures, Jean-Claude Lattès, on 2001), do not hesitate to assert that Bernadette owed, in a sense "to disappear" in his lifetime so that the Church can master totally the capitalization of the miracles kicked out.

For a girl without dowry, sister's life was with difficulty possible, but Bernadette is henceforth famous and different convents are ready to welcome him.

She thus leaves Pyrenees which she will never revise. She joins July 7th, 1866, congregation of the Sisters of the Charity in Nevers. She stays there thirteen years during which she will be treated without special consideration. She occupies the posts of help-nurse, responsible for the infirmary and for the sacristine. On the last four years, she is especially sick.

Infringement of a tuberculosis of the bones, and suffering from its tense chronic asthma at the age of 11, during the big epidemic of cholera in High Pyrenees, her dies on April 16th, 1879 in Nevers at the age of thirty five years.

For the needs of the lawsuit in canonization, its body must be recognized. her; coffin will be 3 times opened and its body found intact.

She rests since 1925 in a bronze and glass reliquary in the chapel of the Space Bernadette in Nevers. During the exhumations, her;its*} body was washed and the contact with "cleaners" had darkened the skin: the body of the respectable Bernadette is intact, the complete skeleton, the wasted but well kept muscles; the parcheminée skin seems alone to have undergone the humidity of the coffin. She took a gray tint and is covered with some molds and with a certain quantity of crystals of calcareous salts (…) (Dr Heel and Dr Count, in charge of the exam of the body after 1923), quoted by Dominique Lormier in Bernadette Soubirous, éd. CMD, on 1999. In the same book we learn that some years later, Bernadette's skin darkened. < / ref >. Bernadette's face and the hands were thus covered with a very fine wax mask for the public presentation.

Bernadette Soubirous was beatified on June 14th, 1925 then canonized on December 8th, 1933.

The Soubirous family

Her parents

her father is François Soubirous, been born on July 7th, 1807 and died on March 4th, 1871. Étymologiquement, her patronymic would mean "sovereign" (of sobeiran occitan).
her mother is Louise Castérot, been born on September 28th, 1825 and died on December 8th, 1866. She wife François Soubirous on January 9th, 1843).

The children Soubirous

* Marie-Bernarde, said Bernadette (in January 7th, 1844 - April 16th, 1879)
* Jean (in February 13th, 1845 - April 10th, 1845)
* Marie, said Toinette (in September 19th, 1846 - October 13th, 1892), who will have six children, among whom only the last one, Jean Alexis Sabathé, will affect the adulthood (to die as conscript during the war of 14-18)
* Jean-Marie (in December 10th, 1848 - January 4th, 1851)
* Jean-Marie in ( 13 May 1851 February 27th, 1919 )
* Justin (in February 28th, 1855 February 1st, 1865)
* Bernard Pierre (in September 10th, 1859 - February 2nd, 1931). Godchild of Bernadette.
* Jean (in February 4th, 1864 - September 11th, 1864)
* A girl, stillborn (in January, 1866)


* Bernadette Soubirous. Anne Bernet, Perrin, on 1994.
* Bernadette on the ground as in the sky, Robert Serrou, Paris-Match - Hatchet;
* The song of Bernadette (Das Lied von Bernadette, on 1941) of Franz Werfel, novelist and Austrian poet of Jewish family (on 1890 - 1945). Taken refuge in Lourdes in front of the German troops in 1940, Werfel makes the wish write a novel on Bernadette if he was saved. Arrived at the United States, he publishes in 1941 The song of Bernadette, work of a big humanity.
* The Song of Bernadette (The Song of Bernadette, on 1943), Henry King's American film with Jennifer Jones, according to Franz Werfel's novel. Recompensé by three Golden Delicious Globes and four Oscars in 1944.


A big part of this note was drafted with information stemming from the official site of the sanctuary of Lourdes and of that of the sanctuary Sainte-Bernadette, in Nevers (cf.section links). These two sites adduce no critical questioning of the "miracles" of Lourdes, but propose not less a relatively complete synthesis of the facts.

Notes and references


Internal links

* Kick out
* Pilgrimage of Lourdes