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 Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.