Holy, curing water in Lourdes, France. Many millions visit Lourdes in southern France every year to take what is considered the city’s holy wa...

Holy, curing water in Lourdes, France. Many millions visit Lourdes in southern France every year to take what is considered the city’s holy wa...Holy, curing water in Lourdes, France.

Many millions visit Lourdes in southern France every year to take what is considered the city’s holy water. Sick and disabled pilgrims in their millions have come here from the whole world in search for cures for their problems or strength to endure them.

I also went there to see how water is seen as the “water of life” - as a religious symbol and as an affirmation of God, and as God’s medium. It is, of course, interesting that this attitude to water exists and thrives in France, the country where modern rationalism celebrated its first victories.

On the square in front of the basilica, in among the motley, multinational crowd, surrounded by people who linked to their wheel chairs are moved by their helpers from the holy springs to the holy baths, while the religious hymns are song and chanted prayers for help seem to infuse the entire place, it is hard not to be moved. It is a manifestation of the power of faith and of prayer in forming collective activities and ideas: the people who come here in the many thousands cling, visibly and intensely, to what might be their last hope – that the water here will heal them.

The status of Lourdes can be attributed to a very simple and – some would say – deeply touching story. It goes like this: On 11th February 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared for the first time in the Grotto of Massabielle to the fourteen year old, asthmatic miller’s daughter, Bernadette Soubrious, the eldest of nine children from a poor family. But it was what happened four days later that laid the foundation for Lourdes’ special status in the Christian world, and which explains why the place is interesting from a water perspective. According to a statement which Bernadette wrote sometime later, the Virgin Mary told her to “go and drink the water from the spring and wash yourself in its water.” Bernadette could see no water, but approached the grotto nonetheless. There the Virgin Mary indicated with her finger that she should enter beneath the great stone that hangs above the opening. Bernadette found a little muddy water though hardly more than she could collect in her hands. Three times she threw it away because it was simply too dirty. But on collecting the drops for the fourth time, she was able to drink it. People who had heard the rumours about the apparition flocked to the grotto and helped to remove the mud. The water became clearer and began to flow freely. Already on the same day they were able to take two bottles of water from the grotto to the nearest town. Stories immediately began to circulate about people being cured of serious illnesses when they drank the water.

By the time Bernadette was canonized in 1933, Lourdes was already world famous. In 1955 sixteen baths were also built. People are now bathed here by the hundred. Helpers stand on either side of the bather, tilt him or her backwards, and hold the body under the water for a few seconds.

This clip is taken from the documentary "A Journey in the history of water". For more books and films on water, see my homepage https://terjetvedt.w.uib.no/.