Information Book For Helpers
A brief history of Lourdes
You’ll probably want to know how, where, why and when it all began, so this section gives you a brief outline of the story of Lourdes.
Lourdes - a town in the foothills of the Pyrenees, with 4,000 inhabitants was home to Francois and Louise Soubirous. Bernadette was their first child.
The family went through good and bad times and at one stage even had to live in a disused prison. Bernadette suffered from poor health, spending a lot of time with her aunt in the nearby town of Bartres.
On 11th February 1858, Bernadette, her sister, and a friend went to collect firewood. Bernadette stayed on the embankment while the others crossed a small stream. She heard a gust of wind, but the trees did not move. She was standing in front of a cave, which was known as “the Grotto”. In a hollow in the rock she saw a young lady, dressed in white, who looked at her and smiled. They both made the sign of the cross and prayed the rosary. The other two girls saw nothing. This was the first apparition.
There followed 17 more apparitions – some were happy meetings and sometimes Bernadette was seen to be in tears. The lady asked Bernadette to pray for the conversion of sinners and asked that Bernadette do penance for sinners. The lady asked her to drink and wash in the spring – at first there did not appear to be one but the lady directed Bernadette place under the rock in the grotto where there was a dirty patch of water – this was to become a flowing spring.