The Grotto of Lourdes, Reproduced in the Papal Gardens
( Originally Published 1907 )
What we see before us is a fine reproduction of an actual scene in the village of Lourdes, southwestern France, where there is a shrine of the Blessed Virgin known to the world as the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. The story is that a little girl named Bernadette Soubirous some sixty years ago saw a vision of the Blessed Virgin in a rocky cave not far from the village of Lourdes. The news of her repeated visions of the Blessed Virgin at this spot led to an investigation, then to popular favor, and finally to the formation of a shrine. Where the Virgin stood in the vision a little stream burst forth which has not ceased to flow from that time on ; in a basin at the foot of the rocks a pool has been made, in which the sick are bathed ; and as a result, thousands of miracles have taken place at the shrine. Many wonderful cures of physical and mental disease are admitted by the learned who have made a study of the phenomena, although they do not admit that the cures are miraculous. The guardians of the shrine have established a bureau which examines the condition of patients seeking a cure, at their arrival and at their departure ; and the results have been carefully tabulated and presented to the general public. The popularity of the shrine brings to it thousands of pilgrims annually, yet the French Government, which is opposed to these manifestations, has often threatened to close the place and prohibit pilgrims from visiting it. Bernadette Soubirous, the little girl who founded the shrine, lived many years as a simple nun in the convent at Lourdes, and died at middle age after a blameless and simple life. Catholics the world over have a great fondness for this shrine ; the water of its perpetual spring is in constant demand every-where, and even in foreign lands effects most startling cures. Leo XIII erected this imitation of Lourdes, and often came here to offer his devotions, 'kneeling humbly before the statue of the Blessed Virgin like the people we see before us. A medallion of the Pontiff is visible at the left over the arch, the eagle eye and nose being as prominent in the profile as in real life. He also built in this vicinity a casino, which stands at some distance back of our present position.
A beautiful church is built over the grotto here. The stone balustrade which we see now above the cavern marks the edge of a level terrace in front of the church. That terrace offers a good place to view the old Casino of Pope Leo, therefore our next position will be on that higher level. Find the number 31 on the map, where the red lines tell we are to be looking southward. The Vatican will be at our left.