Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France (October 2009)

Photographs taken during my extraordinary experience at the Lourdes Sanctuary in October 2009.

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The Lourdes Sanctuary at sunrise

The town of Lourdes

Views of the Sanctuary from the town

St Joseph's Gate: one of three entrances into the Sanctuary

St. Michael's Gate

Saint Michael, the Archangel

Saint Raphael, the Archangel

Statue of the Crowned Virgin: a popluar meeting place for pilgrim groups

Sidewalk art drawn by a pilgrim at the base of the Crowned Virgin statue

The Chapels at Lourdes

Upper and Lower Basilicas

Interior of the "Crypt:" The first chapel built in the Sanctuary (1866), following Mary's directive to build a chapel near the Grotto. The Crypt is located beneath the Lower Basilica, which is situated beneath the Upper Basilica.

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Upper Basilica)

Basilica of the Holy Rosary (Lower Basilica)

Golden Crown atop the Basilica of the Holy Rosary

View of the Sanctuary from atop the Lower Basilica, in front of the Upper Basilica

Pilgrims assembling in front of the Statue of the Crowned Virgin

Door Detail from the Lower Basilica (Mary offering a Rosary to Saint Dominic, credited as its founder)

The Breton Calvary (dedicated in 1900): a three-dimensional monument depicting the Crucifixion, with the four witnesses represented on the corners beneath the cross.

Breton Calvary surrounded by Rosary created from rocks representing the countries of origin of visiting pilgrims

Mosaic of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (found outside the Lower Basilica)

Detail of the interior of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary: Above the alter, a mosaic of Mary with arms outstretched, bearing the phrase: "Par Marie a Jesus" (Through Mary to Jesus)

Dome of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, adorned with roses and Ave Marias

Mosaics of the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary

In the Basilica of our Lady of the Rosary, fifteen side chapels contain mosaics and alters, each representing one of the Joyful, Sorrowful, or Glorious mysteries. The Basilica was opened in 1889, and consecrated in 1901.

Pictures of the mosaics are below.

First Joyful Mystery: The Annuciation of the Lord to Mary

The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

The Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ

The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation of our Lord

The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

The First Glorious Mystery: The Ressurection of the Lord

The Second Glorious Mystery: The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven

The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit

The Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

The Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging of Jesus at the Pillar

The Third Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is Crowned with Thorns

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Carries the Cross

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion of the Lord

The Way of the Cross

Built in 1912, the fourteen Stations of the Cross are presented as larger-than-life bronze figure, on a winding one mile trail up the Espelugues mountain to the Calvary. Unlike the traditional Way of the Cross, a fifteenth and sixteenth station have been added. Station fifteen announces, "With certain hope and complete faith, the Virgin awaits the Third Day," and station sixteen proclaims, "He has risen as he said. Alleluia!"

Memorial to fallen pilgrims at the base of the Epelugues mountain

Station 6: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Station 10: Jesus is stripped of His garments

Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross

Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb

Station 16: He is Risen! Alleluia!

The Grotto

The Grotto marks the spot in the cave of rock of Massabielle where St. Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary eighteen times in 1858. It is the most sacred space in Lourdes. A statue Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception sits in a crevice in the rock, beneath which flows the natural spring which sprange forth following her command.

The Grotto during the annointing of the sick

The Grotto by night

Stained Glass at Lourdes

In 1958, expecting large crowds for the centenary of the apparitions, a large underground basilica was built. Lining the walls of this basilica are back-lit stained glass "windows." The windows depict the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, and the apparitions of Our Lady to Saint Bernadette.

Lourdes at Night: The Marian Candlelight Procession

Every night, a Marian celebration and torchlight procession begins near the sacred Grotto, passes the statue of the Crowned Virgin, and concludes in Rosary Square outside the doors to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. During the procession, pilgrims carry torches and candles, holding them aloft and raising them in unison as they pray the Rosary (in their own language) and sing "Ave Maria."

During the procession, five decades of the Rosary are receited. The Our Father and Glory Be are recited in Latin, with the Hail Marys being said in a variety of languages. During the Rosary, the Domaine is filled with thousands of pilgrims, each praying in a different language. The purpose of the procession is to honor Mary with song and prayer, and to recall our baptismal commitment to keep the Light of Christ burning brightly in our lives. By so doing, we give praise to God who has called us out of darkness into His glorious light!

(For a brief video of the Marian candlelight procession, visit the "video" tab above).

Lourdes Prayer Candles

Not only are candles carried by pilgrims during the Marian candlelight procession, over 750 tons of candles are lit each year by pilgrims-- an offering of light and prayer. The flames-- the light of Christ from which our life receives hope-- burn twenty-four hours a day. The simple phrase, inscribed in many languages, states: "This flame continues my prayer."