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Bernadette Soubirous - A Young Girl's Vision Of The Virgin Mary The True Story Of The Miracle Of Lourdes

Updated on April 18, 2014

Poverty and Illness.

Bernadette Soubirous was born on the 7th January 1844, In Lourdes France. She lived with her mother and father, Francois and Louise Soubirous. She was the eldest of five children. Her mother Louise had given birth to nine children, but sadly lost three before they reached the age of ten. Her childhood was simple, but filled with poverty and illness. Her father was a miller, and the money he earned was barely enough to feed the family. But because of these circumstances, they were a close and loving family. In 1854, something happened that would change their lives forever. And lead Bernadette down a path of fear, illness and desperation. Her father was suddenly accused of stealing two sacks of flour, and even though he protested his innocence, he was jailed for weeks. At the same time, drought affected the land, and the wheat harvest became so poor it affected the mill where he worked. Their world collapsed around them, and they were forced to move to a one room dwelling. The cold and the damp, affected Bernadette to such an extent that she contracted cholera. High fevers wracked her body, and she suffered with the effects for the rest of her life, causing her to have asthma attacks. The emotional distress took it's toll on her.

Bernadette Soubirous

Isolation and Heartache

As Bernadette was unable to attend school, she was unable to read and write, or speak french. When she was 14 years of age the only dialect that she could speak was the local dialect of Lourdes. This not only affected her in her outside life, but also upset her because she was not allowed to receive Holy Communion, as she could not understand the Catechism. At this point in time, her only comfort came from the love of her mother. The irony of being turned away from the Church became obvious a few months into her 14th birthday when Bernadette's world would change forever, and the Church would have to open their eyes to the wonder of what befell them.

The Year of Wonders.

On Thursday February 11, 1858, a day which started out ordinarily, Bernadette would step outside of her house, and would take her first steps into History.

After dinner, on this Thursday before Ash Wednesday, Bernadette was asked to go and fetch some more wood, as there was none left to feed the fire. Bernadette, her sister Toinette, and a friend called Jeanne Abadie, went to the river which was surrounded by woodland. It was a cold day, and they had to cross the river. The water was freezing cold, and running fast, and the girls thought it would be best if Bernadette stayed on this side because they feared she would have an asthma attack. So Bernadette stayed, and watched her sister and friend go. She was alone.

Suddenly a noise rose up around her, and fearing that a storm was about to descend on her, Bernadette ran for cover. The nearest place to rest and keep warm was the Grotto of Massabieille, a natural cave or grotto, that was in the side of the rock face. At this time it was just an old cave that was used for dumping rubbish or holding animals.

Bernadette realised that in fact, instead of a storm arising, everything was still. In fact eerily still. Silent.

The only thing that was moving, was a rose bush. Swishing and swaying in the wind. Only there was no wind. Looking up, she jumped and began to panic. Losing her sense of speech and movement, she was transfixed on the mouth of the cave. There was a Golden coloured cloud drifting outwards towards her. She couldn't move. Then Bernadette saw movement. Behind the cloud, slowly coming towards her, she saw the most wonderful sight, a beautiful Lady. Silently, the Lady came and stood at the entrance to the Grotto. The rose bush was at her feet, and Bernadette had never seen anything so glorious. The lady held her hand out to Bernadette, and signaled her to advance.

Bernadette took out her rosary and knelt before the Lady. Who she noticed had one laying across her right arm. Bernadette was paralyzed. It wasn't until the Lady made the sign of the cross, that Bernadette felt she could do the same. At first the Lady stood quietly, then softly she began to recite the Gloria's with her. Bernadette stared at her, her eyes misting with emotion, until the Lady smiled a wondrous smile and returned to the Grotto, and the Golden cloud disappeared too.

The Vision

Bernadette stayed like this for sometime, then realising that she was getting colder, she ran back to find her sister. They all listened in awe at her story. But Bernadette was troubled and told them to keep it a secret. That evening, after the family prayer, Bernadette began to cry. After her mother kept asking what was wrong, Bernadette's sister told them everything. Her mother was scared that Bernadette was halucinating and told her to keep away from the cave. But after Bernadette went to bed, she couldn't get the vision out of her mind. The discription she had given to her family, was this:

"She has the appearance of a young girl of sixteen or seventeen. She is dressed in a white robe, girdled at the waist with a blue ribbon which flows down all around it. A yoke closes it in graceful pleats at the base of the neck. The sleeves are long and tight fitting. She wears upon her head a veil which is also white. This veil gives just a glimpse of her hair and then falls down at the back below her waist. Her feet are bare but covered by the last folds of her robe except at the point where a yellow rose shines upon each of them. She holds on her right arm a rosary of white beads with a chain of gold shining like the two roses on her feet"

By the following Sunday, her worried mother decided to allow Bernadette to return to the cave. Hoping that she would realise that it had just been an illusion. Little did she know that this was the start of something wondrous.

The Second Apparition -Sunday February 14 1858

This time, Bernadette was accompanied by her sister and friend. They carried a vial of Holy Water with them. This was because her parents wanted to know if the vision was real, or if it was an evil influence. When they entered the Grotto, instead of throwing the water inside to ward of evil spirits, Bernadette suddenly poured the water down into the ground. Turning to her friends she told them that the Lady was there, and she was smiling. The other two girls ran off screaming, and by the time Bernadette got home, her mother was standing by the door holding a switch, a long stick, getting ready to go to the Grotto and see for herself. But by this time the whole town was talking about it. A local woman, who luckily for Bernadette, believed her and realised that something amazing was going on, managed to stop her mother. Calming her down, she asked permission to take Bernadette back to the Grotto.

Bernadette In Prayer

After saying Mass, they set of for the Grotto, carrying a blessed candle. They also took a pen, paper and ink to record the sightings. On entering the Grotto, Bernadette saw the Lady again. She said to Bernadette, "There is no need to write down what I say to you, will you come here everyday for fifteen days?" The Lady then gave Bernadette a pledge. She never said she would be happy in this world, but promised her that she would find happiness in the next.

On Friday February 19 1858, Bernadette's parents accompanied her to the Grotto. With neighbours surrounding her, Bernadette's face was transfigured and illuminated.

Saturday February 20 1858

The Lady taught Bernadette a prayer that she recited daily for the rest of her life. She never revealed it to anybody. She always took a blessed candle with her to the Grotto.

Sunday February 21 1858

Bernadette was asked by the Lady to always pray for sinners. On this day, several hundred people followed her to the Grotto, and amongst them was a Doctor Dozous. He stated that " There is nothing wrong with Bernadette's mental state, in fact her pulse was regular, and her breathing easier than normal".

Soon there was a meeting in the town to discuss the matter. One was the danger of such huge crowds gathering in one place, and the other concern was of course, was she imagining it? But soon a local official, M. Jacomet, the Chief of Police, and M. Estrade, who became Bernadette's friend, decided to investigate the whole business. And became invaluable by recording scrupulously each and every word that was spoken.

Suspicion and Disbelief

The local authorities tried everything they could to try to make Bernadette confess that it was just a story. They tried to trick her, by saying she had said something different at meetings with the Lady. But Bernadette stuck to her story. On Monday February 22 1858, Bernadette returned to the Grotto, but was closely followed by two policemen. She knelt down at her usual place, but was surprised by the policemen. When they asked, had she seen the Lady, Bernadette replied that, no, she hadn't appeared. The locals started laughing and said that the Lady was scared by the Police!

The Seventh Apparition. Tuesday February 23 1858

Two hundred people were present at this time. And they all witnessed Bernadette's transition. Her faced glowed with a radiance that was so bright, the local men removed their hat's and fell to their knees. Bernadette seemed to be listening gravely. Occasionally she would nod her head, or bow down. Sometimes she smiled. When asked what the Lady had said, she replied that the Lady had entrusted her with three secrets, which she never revealed.

On her eight appearance, on Wednesday February 24 1858, Bernadette turned and faced the crowd and repeated these words, "penitence, penitence, penitence"

Then The Miracle Comes.

The Ninth Apparition Thursday February 25 1858.

Bernadette knelt before her Lady. The crowd was quiet and awestruck. Then so quiet that they could hardly hear her, Bernadette repeated the words that the Lady had said to her.

"Drink from the fountain and bathe in it" Bernadette was puzzled, as there had never been a fountain at Massabieille. Not even any kind of natural spring.

The crowd held their breath.

Bernadette began to scratch the loose gravel and earth off the ground in front of her. As she did, she began to notice that the ground was beginning to get moist. Suddenly a little pool started to form, and bubbles were rising from the ground. She reached down and cupped the water in her hands. And drank. Then she washed her face in it. The crowd were silent as they made their way home. Everyone was in shock.

The next day, Bernadette returned to the Grotto, along with all the villagers. They all stood in amazed shock to see that the ground was now covered in water, and the pool was dripping down the rock. The following day, the trickle had become a stream.

It was said afterwards, that maybe the spring had always been there, but nobody had found it.

But Bernadette had. She had been given the message by direct command.

The Miracle Begins.

The Commands

The following Apparitions consisted of the Lady telling Bernadette to kiss the ground on behalf of sinners, which she did, and the crowd also followed. Then the Lady told Bernadette to build a Chapel on the site of the Grotto. Bernadette was then told by the Lady that she was wearing a different rosary, which was correct.

On the Thirteenth day, the Lady just prayed with Bernadette. But on the fourteenth day, the Lady repeated that she wanted a Chapel build on the Grotto. Bernadette was terrified of the Clergy, but did as she commanded and asked to see the priest. He dismissed her and said, "If the Lady wants a Chapel, then tell her to reveal her identity"!


The Fifteenth Commandment

 The fifteenth day. Thursday March 4 1858.

Everybody knew that this was meant to be the last time the Lady would come to Bernadette. Twenty thousand people were present. This included an entire military garrison in full dress and armour. A path was cleared for her to walk towards the Grotto. She was accompanied by two soldiers. Bernadette bowed down before the Lady. The crowd waited in anticipation. But they were disappointed. Bernadette turned to them and told them that she would continue to come to the grotto. The Lady had not said farewell. The crowd were disillusioned. They expected something special. They had all seen Bernadette's face, glowing with a strange radiance, but that was all.



I Am The Immaculate Conception


The Feast Of The Annunciation

Thursday march 25 1858.

This day, as Bernadette knelt before the Lady, she was to hear the words that would reveal the Miracle before her. With the crowd silent, and holding their breath the beautiful Lady smiled and said, " I am the Immaculate Conception". When Bernadette revealed this to the people, they flocked to the Grotto, and believed.

Just after this revelation, Bernadette was subjected to another medical examination, and was found to be of sound mind.

The Miracle Of The Candle

Bernadette had always taken a lighted candle to the Grotto, ever since she had been instructed to do so by the Lady. On this day, Wednesday April 7 1858, Bernadette did something that was one of the most amazing Miracles so far. She placed her hand over the candle while she was praying with the Lady. To the cries of horror coming from the crowd, she continued to talk to the Lady. For fifteen minutes her hand was seen shining with the flame flickering around her fingers. After she finished praying, she turned to walk away. her hand was untouched! There was not a mark on her skin. Doctor Dozous took another candle, and without Bernadette realising what he was going to do, yelled in horror as he placed the candle on her hand. She immediately cried out in pain. This horrified the crowd and dissension started to take place. The Grotto was immediately ordered shut. She had frightened them into believing it was magic.

The Last Visitation

 After the Grotto was closed, Bernadette was relieved to find that the interest in her was slowly disappearing. The public had begun to leave her alone, and most presumed that the visitations were finished.  After a few months, Bernadette decided to visit the Grotto again. She and her aunt went to see how close they could get to the Grotto, but the barricades were still there. So they decided to kneel on the grass. Looking up, Bernadette smiled. The Lady had come to see her for the last time.

Shortly after, Bernadette decided to join the order of the Sisters of Charity. Her life became one of peace and order. But she remained sickly. In all that time she never once complained of pain, and continued to do her work for the sick and elderly.

The Last Miracle

Bernadette Soubirous died on April 16 1879. She was just 34 years old. She was buried in the grounds of Nevers convent, France. Thirty years after her death, her body was exhumed for examination. This was the first stage of preparing her for Sainthood. The church would remove such things as small bones and tissue for sacred relics. When they opened her coffin, the greatest miracle of all was revealed.

The Incorruptible.

To the amazement of the witnesses, Bernadette's body was completely perfect. Death had not sunken the skin, there was no smell, and her face looked peaceful and perfect. She hadn't decayed at all.

Her preserved body had lay in a damp grave for thirty years. All the usual reasons for preserving a body were not there. If a body stays in this state, it is usually because of the chemicals in the skin, or lime and other minerals in the surrounding earth. In Bernadette's case, this was not so. There was no scientific reason for this.

Over the next few years, Bernadette was examined and washed according to the Holy Rules. She had a few marks on her body, where her skin had turned black on parts of her back, but her body was rigid enough to be washed. There was one thing that was strange. Her Rosary had turned green, and her robe had damp spots on it. This was completely opposite to the usual result of a perfectly mummified body. In a normal mummification, the soil and the minerals would mummify all of the body. Bernadette's body was a contradiction to how she should look. The heat and water should have decomposed all of her body. But she was nearly perfectly preserved. She is now preserved in a Chrystal coffin, and visitors can go and see her.


On 8th December 1933, Bernadette was canonized as a Saint by the Catholic Church. Her Feast day is celebrated on the 16th April

The Chapel was built soon after Bernadette's death, with the endorsement of the Church..

After 1866, a railway was constructed to take pilgrims and the afflicted to Lourdes to be healed.

Bernadette's Tomb A Chrystal Casket

She Lays In Peace

At The Time Of Her Death

Now: The Beautiful Incorruptible

Our Lady of Lourdes Collectables


1. The water that flows in Lourdes has proven to have healed at least 68 people. These numbers are the only ones that scientists cannot find any other explanation for. But thousands of people have claimed that they have been cured.

2.At the time of Bernadette hearing the Lady say " I am the Immaculate conception" it was not common knowledge within the population of her town or city, that the church called Mary the Immaculate Conception, or indeed even knew what it signified, therefore they had no idea how Bernadette knew the phrase.


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    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 22 months ago from England

      Amazing, thank you LJM, its what we believe and see I suppose is important, but she was an amazing woman, I think that's what really counts, thanks so much for reading, nell

    • profile image

      LJM 22 months ago

      Her hand and face are made of wax. Here is the true story:

      As part of the canonization process of Bernadette Soubirous her body was exhumed three separate times, in 1909, 1919, and finally in 1925, when she was moved to the crystal casket. Her body was pronounced by the church as officially "incorrupt," but it seems the qualifications for that term may have been somewhat lax. In the words of the attending doctor in 1919: "The body is practically mummified, covered with patches of mildew and quite a notable layer of salts, which appear to be calcium salts... The skin has disappeared in some places, but it is still present on most parts of the body."

      After a few ribs were removed to be sent to Rome as relics, it was decided that the "blackish color" of her face might be off-putting to pilgrims, and so a "light wax mask" was in order. Her new face and hands were designed by Pierre Imans, a designer of fashion mannequins in Paris.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Thanks once again grand old lady, glad you liked it, she was amazing wasn't she? nell

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Very interesting and informative article on Bernadette Soubirous. There are so many mysteries of this world, and I appreciate that you are willing to tackle them.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Thanks Cynthia!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Thanks again Shyron, glad you liked it, nell

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago from Texas

      Thank you Nell for sharing Bernadette's story, I have seen her story several times and I am always awestruck.

      voted up, ABI will share and link my "Waltz of the Angeles"


    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Thanks cadf, for that info, and thanks for reading, nell

    • profile image

      cadf64 4 years ago


      It is very misleading to say that she only spoke a dialect of Lourdes.

      Firstly Occitain isn't a dialect but like French or English a real language. It was spoken at the time by the whole of the southern half of France. Although in decline since this time it is currently used by more than 5 million people and is now taught in selected schools. If she had only spoken French then it would be correct to say that she would have been really isolated !

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, Holly, I totally agree with you, I am always a bit skeptical too, I think we will never really know the truth, but all I can say is that she was a wonderful lady, thanks for reading, cheers nell

    • profile image

      Holly 5 years ago

      The first time I saw the movie, I thought how wonderful the thought, the second time I was a little more intrigued. I'm a bit skeptical of these things, but seeing is believing. Thankyou

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, Paradise, once again thank you so much, I really appreciate you reading my hubs, take care nell

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      God bless her, and you, Nell Rose, for sharing this remarkable story.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, thanks guys, for your great comments, I am so behind today, I will just say thanks and I loved reading all your comments, take care nell

    • catydid52 profile image

      Catharine Parks 6 years ago from Windsor

      Wow! I have never heard the story before about Bernadette, what an amazing story it is!And her body never decomposed, those pictures are amazing and incredible.There are some miracles unexplained in this world, and we will never know the full story until we reach the other side. I do believe that her story is a message for the world, but it is up to us to let the Spirit of God reveal what it is to each one of us that hears Bernadette's story.

      Beautifully written hub, that kept me riveted till the end.

    • pongogirl2 profile image

      Jasmine Pena 6 years ago from California, USA

      Thanks for writing a hub about Bernadette:) I have always been courious about how her life was.

    • ameliejan profile image

      ameliejan 6 years ago from Alicante, Spain

      This is a really fascinating and beautiful story! Well written hub, thanks for sharing.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      An amazing story. I remember after seeing the Song of Bernadette as a young girl, it inspired me to want to become a nun. And I wasn't even Catholic! I did later give my heart to the Lord and I am serving him.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 6 years ago from US

      It is a beautiful story and I do believe something miraculous happened but I also believe that the story has grown as stories will do and be added to. It does not make it a wrong but people often need a source for miracles such as prayer clothes that are sold, etc and they really are healed because their faith is strong in the object of tangibility to a higher power when on their own they cannot have the faith. Beautiful story and fascinating pictures, a real treat! Thank you.

    • CJamesIII profile image

      CJamesIII 6 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Fascinating story! The fact that so many people witnessed her transformation (glowing face) and that at least 68 people have drank the water and have been "healed," is proof of miracles, or perhaps something beyond our 5 or 6 senses.

    Lourdes France

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