Located just a few kilometers from the border with Spain, Lourdes is one of the most striking paradoxes that we can find in Europe. A fervent faith that permeates the sanctuary is countered by the commercial exploitation of religious beliefs among the people. If we add a beautiful landscape of the Pyrenees and a little history, we have a place whose visit is almost essential.
From Spain there are three roads to get to Lourdes. By highway, entering by Irun-Hendaye or if we prefer a slower path but much nicer, crossing the Pyrenees either Somport tunnel, either crossing into France through the passage of Navarra Roncesvalles-Valcarlos.
One of the things that strikes me about this place, as I said before, is the contrast between religious fervor that exists in the sanctuary and the exorbitant consumerism prevailing in the locality. The sanctuary is separated from the village by a fence and the river Gave de Pau. Inside we find an impressive building, the spectacular building. We can also find a huge underground church and numerous hospitals and nursing homes. And is that even this small southwestern French town ill go around the world called for the healing properties in many cases miracles, attributed to the place.
The grotto of miracles:
The religious fervor impressed once we entered the religious compound. There are thousands and thousands of people at any time of day are in place. This year, in fact, marks the 150th anniversary of apparitions of the Virgin. Some six million people a year out. On one side of the sanctuary is the grotto in which, according to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to a young shepherdess place, Bernadette Soubirous. A constant line of people waiting in line to go through the cave and touch the stone. Emotion, contained or not contained in the faces of the faithful to touch the holy place makes my hair stand on end.
But he also impressed and even excited, a believer or not, the image seen by the small cave. A rope passes through the place and hundreds of crutches hanging from it. It is assumed that those are crutches for people with disabilities who have experienced the miracle of Lourdes. Just a few meters of the miraculous place, dozens of little stalls housing thousands of candles with the requests of the parishioners.
Essential to any visit to Lourdes, religious or cultural, is the torchlight procession. Once you have dark, every day of the year, is taken in procession a statue of the Virgin. Short breath to see thousands and thousands of patients in wheelchairs and with candles to accompany the image with songs, prayers and prayers. The view from the church is impressive.
Trade with faith:
But as we said earlier, around the shrine has formed an entire market of objects and memories of the place that contrasts with the passion and emotion that lives just a few hundred meters. It is said that practically the entire population lives in the shrine of Lourdes. Dozens of shops, restaurants and hotels have moved in this town of just 15,000 inhabitants. The defendant is a more plastic bottle of all sizes, the shape of the Virgin and that can be filled with water from the shrine, whose benefits are described as miraculous. Pictures of all sizes, plates, medals, figurines, vases, beads … All kinds of imaginable objects related to religious invocation can be found at Lourdes, and prices for thousands of scandal.
Lourdes is the second population of France in hotel room numbers, just behind Paris. It is almost three times more hotel rooms than people. But not just lives of Lourdes Shrine. The towns and cities around are a good number of visitors. Other towns near larger or Tarbes and Pau are in their housing pilgrims.
More than appearances:
But Lourdes can not only visit the sanctuary and trade up around the faith. During the Middle Ages was a fortified town, whose geographical location made it an important stronghold of the county of Bigorre. Its fourteenth century castle, rebuilt in the sixteenth. It can be seen on a hill east of town.
It even has religious legends much older than the apparition of the Virgin in 1858. Charlemagne is said that when he returned from his foray into Hispanic lands (after the defeat of Roncesvalles and raze Zaragoza), laid siege to the place of Lourdes that was occupied by Muslims under the command of Mirat. Legend has it that during the siege was flying over the fort a giant eagle carrying in its beak a huge trout that dropped to the besieged. Mirat trout collected and sent as a gift to Charlemagne, to ensure they had food enough to withstand the siege. Charlemagne believed him and sent his bishop Turpin to meet with the head of the fortress. The result was that the Muslim converted to Christianity and was baptized later.