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LeSon Photography | profile | all galleries >> Visit ... Europe Pilgrimage 2007 >> Lourdes, France >> Visit ...Grotto of Massabielle. Accounts of 18 Apparitions tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Visit ...Grotto of Massabielle. Accounts of 18 Apparitions

18 Apparitions: Feb 11, 1858 to July 16, 1858


In contrast to the grandness of Rosary Square and the various basilicas the grotto at Massabielle where St Bernadette's visions took place is very simple and stark. The recess of the grotto itself is undecorated, although a plain stone altar and lectern have been placed there so that Mass can be said. Above the main recess is the niche where the apparitions took place and Fabisch's statue now stands. A large stand of candles next to the altar is kept burning during the season.

The spring Bernadette is said to have dug can be seen at the rear of the grotto, shielded by a glass cover. Pilgrims can process through the grotto in a single line and it is traditional to touch the rocks directly under the statue. Indeed so many people have done this that the stones have been polished smooth and shiny. Also at the rear of the grotto is a metal box into which written prayers or petitions may be deposited. These are collected daily and burnt.

Rows of benches lined in front of the Grotto 30ft from the sacred area allow visitors to sit and pray or contemplate. Pilgrims are asked to remain silent while in the vicinity to create an atmosphere of devotion. One of the spots where Bernadette prayed to the Virgin is marked by a special paving slab.

Some of the rock walls around the grotto bear clear signs of deliberate alteration, presumably to improve access for pilgrims. It is no longer clear what the original configuration of the grotto was.

The Grotto opens until midnight everyday.

Adjacent to the Grotto on the same hillside is the Lourdes Bathing place. Each year about 350,000 people use the baths, with water coming from the spring of the Grotto, believed to receive Grace.

_________________________CANDLES and BRULIERES_______________________
"This Flame continues my Prayer"

A further iconic image of Lourdes is the tall, conical stand containing votive candles which are burnt constantly in the Grotto. Pilgrims may purchase candles to be burnt here as a devotional gesture. However, candles of many different sizes may be burnt in the Domain. The largest are two metres tall and require more than one person to lift them; such candles are usually bought by pilgrimage groups, and typically burn continuously for over a week.

For safety as well as convenience, candles are burnt together in large metal stands called bruli�res. Pilgrims may light their own candles, or leave candles to be burnt later. The bruli�res are tended by feutiers, attendants whose job is to ensure candles are burnt safely and evenly, and to remove the trays of melted wax which collects under each bruli�re.

Any candle may be brought to the Domain and burned. However, most pilgrims buy the candles which are sold in the Domain; such candles are white, with a blue base.

___________________________18 APPIRATIONS_____________________________

___The 1st apparition, 11 February___
"I heard a sound like a gust of wind...The Lady made a sign for me to approach;"

"The first time I went to the Grotto, was Thursday, 11th February, 1858. I went to gather firewood with two other little girls (Toinette, her sister, and their school friend Jeanne Abadie). When we got to the mill (of Savy), I asked the other two if they would like to see where the water of the mill joins the Gave. They said 'Yes.' From there we followed the canal. When we arrived there (at the foot of the rock of Massabielle) we found ourselves before a grotto. As they could go no further, my two companions prepared to cross the water lying before their path; so I found myself alone on the other side. They crossed the water; they started to cry. I asked them why and they told me that the water was cold. I begged them to help me throw a few rocks into the water so that I could cross without taking my stockings off. They replied that I could do as they had done. Then I went a bit further to see if I could cross without taking my stockings off, but without success. "I came back towards the grotto and started taking off my stockings. I had hardly taken off the first stocking when I heard a sound like a gust of wind. Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still: I went on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head to look at the grotto, I saw a lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white.

"The Lady made a sign for me to approach; but I was seized with fear, and I did not dare, thinking that I was faced with an illusion. I rubbed my eyes, but in vain. I looked again, and I could still see the same Lady. Then I put my hand into my pocket, and took my rosary. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but in vain; I could not raise my hand to my forehead, it kept on dropping. Then a violent impression took hold of me more strongly, but I did not go.

"The Lady took the rosary that she held in her hands and she made the sign of the cross. Then I commenced not to be afraid. I took my rosary again; I was able to make the sign of the cross; from that moment I felt perfectly undisturbed in mind. I knelt down and said my rosary, seeing this Lady always before my eyes. The Vision slipped the beads of her rosary between her fingers, but she did not move her lips. When I had said my rosary the Lady made a sign for me to approach, but I did not dare. I stayed in the same place. Then, all of a sudden, she disappeared. I started to remove the other stocking to cross the shallow water near the grotto so as to join my companions. And we went away. As we returned, I asked my companions if they had seen anything. 'No,' they replied. 'And what about you? Did you see anything?' 'Oh, no, if you have seen nothing, neither have I.'

"I thought I had been mistaken. But as we went, all the way, they kept asking me what I had seen. I did not want to tell them. Seeing that they kept on asking I decided to tell them, on condition that they would tell nobody. They promised not to tell. They said that I must never go there again, nor would they, thinking that it was someone who would harm us. I said no. As soon as they arrived home they hastened to say that I had seen a Lady dressed in white. That was the first time."

On realizing that she alone had seen the apparition, and not her companions, she asked her sister Toinette not to tell anyone what had happened. Toinette, however, was unable to keep silent, and told their mother, Louise Soubirous. Both girls received a beating, and Bernadette was forbidden by her mother from returning to the Grotto again.

___The 2nd appiration, 14 February___
"She started to smile, and bowed..."

"The second time was the following Sunday. I went back because I felt myself interiorly impelled. My mother had forbidden me to go. After High Mass, the two other girls and myself went to ask my mother again. She did not want to let us go, she said that she was afraid that I should fall in the water; she was afraid that I would not be back for Vespers. I promised that I would. Then she gave me permission to go.

"I went to the Parish Church to get a little bottle of holy water, to throw over the Vision, if I were to see her at the grotto. When we arrived, we all took our rosaries and we knelt down to say them. I had hardly finished the first decade when I saw the same Lady. Then I started to throw holy water in her direction, and at the same time I said that if she came from God she was to stay, but if not, she must go. She started to smile, and bowed; and the more I sprinkled her with holy water, the more she smiled and bowed her head and the more I saw her make signs. Then I was seized with fright and I hurried to sprinkle her with holy water until the bottle was empty. Then I went on saying my rosary. When I had finished it she disappeared and we came back to Vespers. This was the second time."

Troubled by the notion that the apparition might represent an evil spirit, Bernadette used the holy water as a test. A further reassuring sign was the apparition's beautiful bare feet: demonic apparitions (even while in human form) were believed to have cloven hooves or animal paws.

___The 3rd appearance, 18 February___
"Would you be so kind to come here for fifteen days?"

The Apparition did not speak until the third appearance, and therefore its identity was a matter of considerable speculation. Pious villagers Jeanne-Marie Milhet and Antionette Peyret, on hearing Bernadette's description of the apparition, considered it may have been a revenant, a soul returning from purgatory. Although outwith Catholic doctrine, the concept of the revenant was deeply routed in Pyrenean superstition; further, revenants frequently manifested to young children. The previous October, the head of the local chapter of the Children of Mary, a woman named Elisa Latapie, had died. Revenants rarely spoke, but communicated their messages in writing, and so Milhet and Peyrey furnished Bernadette with paper, a pen and an inkpot to take with her, in case the apparition should make use of them.

"The third time was the following Thursday. The Lady only spoke to me the third time. I went to the grotto with a few matured people, who advised me to take paper and ink, and to ask her, if she had anything to say to me, to have the goodness to put it on paper. I said these words to the Lady. She smiled and said that it was not necessary for her to write what she had to say to me, but asked if I would do her the favour of coming for a fortnight. I told her that I would. She told me also that she did not promise to make me happy in this world, but in the next."

Although she spoke in Occitan, the regional language which Bernadette (whose French was poor) used, the apparition used remarkably formal language in her request: "Would you have the goodness to come here for fifteen days?" (in Occitan: "Boulet aoue ra gracia de bi� aci penden quinze dias?"; in French:"Voulez-vous me faire la gr�ce de venir ici pendant quinze jours?") This significance of this politeness was not lost on the observers. As a penniless peasant girl, it would be very unusual for anyone to adopt this formal form of address when speaking to Bernadette.

___The 4th appearance, 19 February___
"The Lady asked her to leave her candle there."

Armed with a lighted candle for protection, Bernadette came to the grotto. This originated the custom of carrying lighted candles to the grotto. Eight people were present including Bernadette's mother and two of her aunts, one of whom, Aunt Bernarde, was her godmother and the most influential member of her mother's family.[7] Bernadette reported that the lady asked her to leave her candle there. She said "It belongs to my aunt, I'll have to ask her; but if she agrees, I will."

___The 5th appearance, 20 February___

Thirty people were present. Bernadette reported later that the lady had taught her a prayer, which she said every day of her life, but never wrote down or repeated to anyone. Father Pene, the local parish curate, questioned Bernadette about the happiness she found at the Grotto. She answered "When I see her I feel as if I'm no longer of this world. And when the vision disappears I'm amazed to find myself still here."

___The 6th appearance, 21 February___

Over 100 people were present, and Bernadette was afterwards interrogated by Dominique Jacomet, the Police Commissioner. Her father, Francois Soubirous, eventually assured the commissioner that the affair would cease.

___The 7th appearance, 23 February___

About 150 people were present. Jean-Baptiste Estrade (a tax inspector), Duffo (a court official), and the officers from the garrison were present. Bernadette said later that the lady had told her a secret, which was for her alone, and was never revealed to anyone.

___The 8th appearance, 24 February___
"Penance! Penance! Penance!"

The message of the "lady" was "Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the ground as an act of penance for sinners!" About 250 people were present.

___The 9th appearance, 25 February___
...."drink at the fountain and wash myself"

The police recorded a crowd of more than 350. Hoping to witness something of her ecstasy, the crowd waited with eagerness for Bernadette's arrival. Unlike the fine weather of previous days, this was a cold, miserable rainy day. It was out of the cold misty dawn that Bernadette finally appeared. She was seen to remove her hood, put her candle aside, walk towards the Gave, then turn, go down on her knees and finally crawl on all fours to the back of the Grotto, towards the left of the rock.

"(The Lady) told me that I should go and drink at the fountain and wash myself. Seeing no fountain I went to drink at the Gave. She said it was not there; she pointed with her finger that I was to go in under the rock. I went, and I found a puddle of water which was more like mud, and the quantity was so small that I could hardly gather a little in the hollow of my hand. Nevertheless I obeyed, and started scratching the ground; after doing that I was able to take some. The water was so dirty that three times I threw it away. The fourth time I was able to drink it. She made me eat grass growing in the same place where I had drunk; once only; I do not know why. Then the Vision disappeared and I went home." Bernadette was interrogated again. For two long hours, Bernadette stood on her feet with her mother standing beside her. The fourteen–year–old girl endured a grilling interrogation. She was questioned, accused, and threatened with all kinds of insinuations.

The spring began to flow a day later.

___The 10th appearance, 27 February___

About 800 people were present.

___The 11th appearance, 28 February___

Over one thousand people were present. Bernadette was questioned by Judge Ribes afterwards.

___The 12th appearance, 1 March___

There were almost fifteen hundred people present. Catherine Latapie reported that she bathed her paralyzed arm in the spring, and instantaneously regained full movement. This was the first of the scientifically unattributable events to take place.

___The 13th appearance, 2 March___
"Go and tell the priest to build a chapel here and to have people come in procession."

The "lady" commanded Bernadette: "Go, tell the priests to come here in procession and to build a chapel here." [Another source says: "Go and tell the priest to build a chapel here and to have people come in procession."] Accompanied by her two aunts, Bernadette went to ask Fr. Peyramale, who called Bernadette a liar and forbade her to go to the grotto, after which she was dismissed. Bernadette was determined, and came again with one of the priest's friends to ask again. After Bernadette was thoroughly questioned before the parish clergy and dismissed, the parish priests could not agree on what course to take. Peyramale decided to go to Tarbes to visit the bishop. The bishop determined that Peyramale should remain away from the grotto.

___The 14th appearance, 3 March___
"...requests for the procession and chapel could not be fulfilled until the lady's name was known"

Previously, Father Peyramale had told Bernadette that the requests for the procession and chapel could not be fulfilled unless and until the lady's name was known. On this occasion Bernadette asked for the lady's name, but, according to Bernadette's testimony, the lady merely bowed a little and smiled.

___The 15th appearance, 4 March___
'Who is this lady?'

About eight thousand people were present. "The third time I went to see M. le Cur�, to tell him that a Lady had ordered me to go and say to the priests that they were to have a chapel built there, he looked at me for a moment, and then he said to me in a rather gruff tone, 'Who is this lady?' I answered that I did not know. Then he commissioned me to ask her name and to come and tell him. The next day when I arrived at the grotto I recited my rosary and then asked her, from M. le Cur� what her name was, but all she did was to smile. When I got back I went to M. le Cur� to tell him that I discharged his commission, and her only response was her smile; then he said she was laughing at me and that I would do well not to go to her again. But, I could not help going."

___The 16th appearance, 25 March___
"Je suis l'Immaculee conception"

Our Lady of Lourdes - Mary appearing at Lourdes with Rosary Beads. The words on her halo are: 'Je suis l'Immaculee conception' (I am the Immaculate Conception). These are the words that Bernadette reported that Mary said to her in the 16th apparition.

"I went every day for a fortnight, and each day I asked her who she was, and this petition always made her smile. After the fortnight I asked her three times consecutively. She always smiled. At last I tried for the fourth time. She stopped smiling. With her arms down, she raised her eyes to heaven and then, folding her hands over her breast she said, 'I am the Immaculate Conception.' Then I went back to M. le Cur� to tell him that she had said she was the Immaculate Conception, and he asked was I absolutely certain. I said yes, and so as not to forget the words, I had repeated them all the way home."

Fr. Peyramale said that a woman cannot have a name like that. "You are mistaken. Do you know what that means?" The priest was shaken, and unable to talk to Bernadette. He quickly sent her away, and she left without the privilege of understanding the meaning of the title. She was only told later that afternoon that the Blessed Mother carried that title.

___The 17th appearance, 7 April___
"...the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching"

Dr. Pierre Romaine Dozous, the town physician, originally watched the apparitions from a skeptical viewpoint. He believed Bernadette, whom he knew well, was in her right mind aside from the apparitions; he planned to write a medical article discussing the idea that one can have illusions or hallucinations without being insane.

He reported: "Bernadette seemed to be even more absorbed than usual in the Appearance upon which her gaze was riveted. I witnessed, as did also every one else there present, the fact which I am about to narrate. She was on her knees saying with fervent devotion the prayers of her Rosary which she held in her left hand while in her right was a large blessed candle, alight. The child was just beginning to make the usual ascent on her knees when suddenly she stopped and, her right hand joining her left, the flame of the big candle passed between the fingers of the latter. Though fanned by a fairly strong breeze, the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching. Astonished at this strange fact, I forbade anyone there to interfere, and taking my watch in my hand, I studied the phenomenon attentively for a quarter of an hour. At the end of this time Bernadette, still in her ecstasy, advanced to the upper part of the Grotto, separating her hands. The flame thus ceased to touch her left hand.

Bernadette finished her prayer and the splendour of the transfiguration left her face. She rose and was about to quit the Grotto when I asked her to show me her left hand. I examined it most carefully, but could not find the least trace of burning anywhere upon it. I then asked the person who was holding the candle to light it again and give it to me. I put it several times in succession under Bernadette's left hand but she drew it away quickly, saying 'You are burning me!'. I record this fact just as I have seen it without attempting to explain it. Many persons who were present at the time can confirm what I have said."

On June 8, 1858, the mayor of Lourdes barricaded the grotto and stationed guards to prevent public access. Visitors were fined for kneeling near the grotto or talking about the grotto.

___The 18th appearance, July 16, 1858 ____
"...She was more beautiful than ever."

This was the last. Because the grotto was barricaded by the local government, Bernadette knelt outside the fence by the riverbank. "I thought I was at the Grotto, at the same distance as I was the other times. All I saw was Our Lady ... She was more beautiful than ever."

At 8pm Bernadette and the Virgin Mary silently made their final goodbyes amidst a still crowd. She had seen Our Lady from a few hundred yards across the river, and yet she felt as if Mary was right before her.

The grotto reopened to the public in October of 1858, by order of Emperor Louis Napoleon III.

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I am the Immaculate Conception, 1858 P1020442.jpg
"I am the Immaculate Conception", 1858 P1020442.jpg
Bernadette, 1862....>
Bernadette, 1862....>
Bernadette in ecstasy...>
"Bernadette in ecstasy"...>
Artist rendering from the Chapel, across river P1020669.jpg
Artist rendering from the Chapel, across river P1020669.jpg
I am the Immaculate Conception, 1858
"I am the Immaculate Conception", 1858
Side entry to Grotto P1020431.jpg
Side entry to Grotto P1020431.jpg
Incline to Grotto P1020432.jpg
Incline to Grotto P1020432.jpg
Incline to Grotto  P1020440.jpg
Incline to Grotto P1020440.jpg
Bruliere  IMG_0112.jpg
Bruliere IMG_0112.jpg
Bruliere  IMG_0113.jpg
Bruliere IMG_0113.jpg
This Flame continues My Prayer  P1020696.jpg
"This Flame continues My Prayer" P1020696.jpg
This Flame continues My Prayer  P1020467.jpg
"This Flame continues My Prayer" P1020467.jpg
This Flame continues My Prayer  P1020463.jpg
"This Flame continues My Prayer" P1020463.jpg
This Flame continues My Prayer  P1020466.jpg
"This Flame continues My Prayer" P1020466.jpg
This Flame continues My Prayer    P1020693.jpg
"This Flame continues My Prayer" P1020693.jpg
Stand in reverence IMG_0115.jpg
Stand in reverence IMG_0115.jpg
Fabisch's 1864 statue of Our Lady of Lourdes   IMG_0373.jpg
Fabisch's 1864 statue of Our Lady of Lourdes IMG_0373.jpg
Original spring protected by glass screen against the Grotto wall P1020675.jpg
Original spring protected by glass screen against the Grotto wall P1020675.jpg
Night prayers ....>  IMG_0296.jpg
Night prayers ....> IMG_0296.jpg
Night prayers  IMG_0306.jpg
Night prayers IMG_0306.jpg
Night prayers IMG_0316.jpg
Night prayers IMG_0316.jpg
Grotto seen from the Chapel across Gave river, 18th ...>  IMG_0366.jpg
Grotto seen from the Chapel across Gave river, 18th ...> IMG_0366.jpg
Fr Peyramale, 13rd Appiration...>
Fr Peyramale, 13rd Appiration...>
Bishop of Tarbes Laurence Jan18, 1862...>
Bishop of Tarbes Laurence Jan18, 1862...>
Building site of Crypt and...>.
Building site of Crypt and...>.
The grotto was my heaven...>
"The grotto was my heaven"...>