Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees. In 1858 the city rose to prominence in France and abroad due to the Marian apparitions seen by an illiterate peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous. Shortly after the city became one of the most important sites of pilgrimage and religious tourism in the world. Today Lourdes hosts around six million visitors every year. This constant stream of pilgrims and tourists transformed quiet Lourdes into the second most important center of tourism in France. With about 270 hotels, the town has the second greatest number of accommodations per square kilometre after Paris.
According to believers, the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on a total of eighteen occasions. No wonder Lourdes has become a major place of miraculous healings. An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine (“Le Sanctuaire”) since 1860 and the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognized 69 healings considered miraculous. On Assumption Day, pilgrims from all corners of the world flock to Lourdes hoping for a miracle to happen. The waiting time can be long and the prayers unfruitful but the faith remains strong. I didn’t get to see the Virgin Mary and these photographs are no miracle but if you like them and decide to publish some of them it would make Mary, Bernadette and myself very happy.