a small town in southwest France where Roman Catholics believe that Saint Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary appear. They consider Lourdes to be a holy place, and many sick people go there because they believe that the water there is holy and has the power to cure them. Pilgrimage site in southwestern France, situated southwest of Toulouse at the foot of the Pyrenees. The town and its fortress formed a strategic stronghold in medieval times, but its modern significance dates from 1858, when a 14-year-old girl had repeated visions of the Virgin Mary (see Bernadette of Lourdes). The visions were declared authentic by Pope Pius IX in 1862. The underground spring in the grotto where Bernadette had her visions was declared to have miraculous qualities, and Lourdes has since become one of the foremost destinations for Roman Catholic pilgrims. Nearly 3 million visit annually, many of them sick or disabled people hoping to be healed. A basilica was built above the grotto in 1876, and a vast underground church was added in 1958
orig. Marie-Bernarde Soubirous born Jan. 7, 1844, Lourdes, France died April 16, 1879, Nevers; canonized Dec. 8, 1933; feast day April 16, but sometimes February 18 in France French visionary. The daughter of a miller, she had a poverty-stricken childhood and was often ill. In 1858 she had a series of visions of Mary; she defended their authenticity against the doubts of her parents, the clergy, and civil authorities. She joined the Sisters of Charity at Nevers (1866) and remained in seclusion until her death at
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