Lourdes, the French healing shrine, attracts more supplicants— millions each year— than any other healing site in the world.
In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, a fourteen-year-old peasant girl, claimed to see apparitions of the Virgin Mary and to be directed by her to a nearby grotto. There she dug some muddy water to which was soon attributed miracle cures. But Bernadette herself was always in poor health, dying at the early age of thirty-five.
While many bathe in Lourdes' cold mountain water, and others take away jugs of it, the fact is that most people who go there are not healed. (For a discussion see Joe Nickell, Looking for a Miracle, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1998, pp. 145-153.) Nevertheless, pilgrims continue to flock to Lourdes, enriching it annually by some $400 million.
Shown here (from the left) are a holy-water fount (depicting the Virgin's appearance to St. Bernadette), a molded souvenir plaque from Lourdes (with similar depiction), and a "Lourdes cross" containing "drops of famous healing water."
This halftone-printed picture is of a statue of the Lady of Lourdes standing in the grotto. The picture is about 7 inches tall and about 5 inches across, and it is captioned, "Our Lady of Lourdes."
The plastic figurine contains water from the grotto where the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared. Along the front of the base there appears to be, "ND LOURDES," and along the back, "Made in France." It is about 6 1/4 inches tall and about 1 1/2 inches across the base.