In 1858 from February 11 to July 16, a 14-year-old peasant girl, called Bernadette Soubirous, saw a vision. The vision was of Mary standing next to a rose bush at the entrance to the Massabielle grotto, on the left bank of the stream. Bernadette saw this vision 7 times. She was told that a spring would appear, and that people were to come to be healed. Bernadette and the whole village made a once in a lifetime trip to the grotto to heal their sins. Many believed the next day they were healed of their sins and Virgin Mary had forgiven them. The figure always appeared in one place, a niche above the main cavity of the grotto, in which a wild rose bush was growing.

The Grotto of Massabielle / Image source

In 1864, the Lyonnais sculptor Joseph-Hugues Fabisch was commissioned to create a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes based on Bernadette’s descriptions. Although it has become an iconic symbol of Our Lady of Lourdes, it depicts a figure which is not only older and taller than Bernadette’s description, but also more in keeping with orthodox and traditional representations of the Virgin Mary. The statue rests in the niche where the Virgin appeared to Bernadette. The original wild rose bush was destroyed shortly after the apparitions by pilgrims seeking relics, but a newer one has been planted nearby.

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