Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
It was while collecting firewood in 1858 that 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous - now a saint in the Catholic church - is said to have been led to the source of a holy spring by the Virgin Mary. Appearing to the young peasant girl a further 17 times in the following years, Our Lady of Lourdes is believed by pilgrims to have blessed the waters that flow from this spring, which is hidden within an unassuming grotto in Lourdes, a small provincial town in the Pyrenees.
Now one of the most visited Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is a complex of Marian shrines that draws over six million visitors a year for its healing waters. To this day, the Catholic church has confirmed 70 of the miracles that are said to have taken place at the site, where pilgrims drink from free-flowing taps and are dunked into blessed waters at the grotto. To properly get to grips with the legends of Lourdes, you'll want to spend several days strolling its spiritual streets and take a walking tour, the best of which can be booked during a stay at boutique bolthole Belfry & Spa.