A look at its History...
Lourdes is a small town located at the foothills of the Pyrenees. Ownership of the town traded back and forth between the French and English monarchies for centuries eventually landing with the French. To help defend the town a fort was erected dating from the Roman period. This fort which later became a castle still stands to this day. From the tower guards had a view of the surrounding mountain valley and any enemies wanting to approach. This town, until 1858, was not of any cultural significance. This changed on February 11 1858, when a young peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous witnessed a Marian apparition.
Bernadette witnessed this apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Grotto of Massabille. She later returned to the grotto and saw Mary again, who told her to return every day for 15 days. The young girl complied and every day more people, up to 20,000 on the 15th day, witnessed Bernadette's face illuminate while in a trance like state. In total young Bernadette experienced 18 visions of Mary. On the 9th vision, Mary told the girl to scratch the ground and a spring of water appeared. This spring still exists today and many come to bath or drink the water due to its healing properties. The Vatican recognizes 67 miracles attributed to the water. During another vision Mary instructed the girl to have a church built on the site. A small chapel was originally constructed but later was replaced with a much larger Basilica. Bernadette eventually was canonized a Saint in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
Today over 5 million pilgrims come every year to Lourdes. Most who journey to this sacred place come seeking the healing powers of the water. Others also come for spiritual reasons. The large influx of visitors after the apparitions created a need for a larger space then the small chapel could handle. In 1889 the Rosary Basilica was constructed which holds 4,000 people. This church also has 15 chapels dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary because Bernadette always said a rosary with the Virgin Mary.