The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is a pilgrimage destination; sick pilgrims are reputed to be miraculously healed by Lourdes water. This ground is owned and administrated by the Roman Catholic Church, and has several functions, including devotional activities, offices, and accommodation for sick pilgrims and their helpers. The Domain includes the Grotto itself, the nearby taps which dispense the Lourdes water, and the offices of the Lourdes Medical Bureau, as well as several churches and basilicas. It comprises an area of 51 hectares, and includes 22 separate places of worship.
Beginning on 11 February 1858, a 14-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have experienced a series of apparitions of a girl dressed in white and with a blue belt around her waist, who eventually introduced herself as the Immaculate Conception, a name by which the Virgin Mary was known.
The first sanctuary to be built was the Crypt, which is below the Basilica of the Immaculate conception. Construction started in 1863 and was consecrated in 1866. The second sanctuary to be built was the Basilica of the Immaculate conception also known as the Upper Basilica. It rises above the one of the Rosary and the Crypt. the construction began in 1866 and was completed and open for worship in 1871.
The third sanctuary to be built was the Rosary Basilica, Our Lady of the Rosary was successfully concluded thirty years after the Apparitions 1883 to 1889 and had great restoration work and improvements were carried out in 2006. The interior of the Rosary Basilica is impressive with a mosaic of the Immaculate conception and mosaics depicting the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary.
The fourth and fifth sanctuaries to be built were the Basilica of Saint Pius X and the church of Saint Bernadette. The Basilica of Saint Pius X is underground and colossal, the shape resembles an overturned boat. The church of Saint Bernadette is the newest construction and holds 5,000 people and took 7 months to build in 1988 it a very modern and spacious building.
The heart of the sanctuary is the Grotto of the Massabielle. Pilgrims from all over the world come to Lourdes to pray at the spot where Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirious. The name Massabielle Means 'old Rock'References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).