Still today, those who visit the Grotto of Massabielle, where Marie-Bernarde Soubirous also known as Bernadette reported the miracolous visions of a “lady dressed in white”, experience a feeling of great holiness and intimate comfort.
The niche where the visions appeared is at the top, like a nest, a snug spot. Suspended like out of time, set on a higher ground, accessible only to those who really believe, who really wish to see it. A statue of the Virgin Mary lies in that niche today, donated by two Lyonnaise ladies in 1864.
Even the world surrounding the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes seems like out of any reality, a place that is not a place, out of time and any common belief. Sacred objects shops show multitude of rosaries of any material. Everything sparkles, like a sea of gemstones. At night the square in front of the Sanctuary lights up with thousands of candles enveloped in their flame arrestors, which turn the whole place into a meadow covered in flowers that shine in the darkness.
Everything is evocative and scenografic. A glimpse of beauty, then the harshness of the sick bodies taking their clothes off to enter the sacred water of the spring that Bernadette herself dug on the Virgin Mary indications; even in those painful images you can read the intensity of Faith, of the endless Love that made that grotto one of the most sacred places in the world and surely one of the main places of pilgrimage for catholics. In this enchanted place Bernadette met the lady dressed in white 18 times, between February and July 1858. During those meetings many miracolous and unexplicable event happened.
The statue of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes in the grotto, around which the Sanctuary was built, was made by Joseph-Hugues Fabisch according to Bernadette’s descriptions: it represents a beautiful and sweet woman, dressed in white, with a blue belt and golden roses at her feet. That’s the face the Virgin Mary chose to reveal to a simple and faithful maiden, and that image has been the official in classic iconography and for the realization of statues and pictures of the Virgin Mary ever since. An image of infinte beauty and comfort, a warmth that all devotees have never ceased to enjoy.