Lourdes

The mountain town of Lourdes is arguably the most famous Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, but its origins are decidedly humble and its renown relatively recent. In February 1858, a 14-year-old miller's daughter named Bernadette Soubirous claimed she saw the Virgin Mary in the Grotte de Massabielle (in all, she had 18 visions). Bernadette dug in the grotto, releasing a gush of water from a spot where no spring had flowed before. From then on, pilgrims thronged the Massabielle rock for the water's supposed healing powers. Today, more than 6 million visitors come each year from every corner of the globeā€”not all of them are Christian, but most are bound by their common hope for a miracle cure.

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