A city near Paris, France, Lourdes is a place where many people believe that miracle cures have taken place. Seemingly miraculous cures began happening in 1858, after fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, while visiting a cave in Lourdes, saw the Virgin Mary in a total of twenty separate visions. Bernadette’s first vision occurred one day while she and two other girls were gathering firewood near the Gave de Pau stream. Separated from her companions, Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary in the cave, or grotto. After nine subsequent visions in the same place, she discovered that a spring had begun to flow from the cave.

Shortly thereafter, a sixty-nine-year-old blind man bathed in the water and reported that it had restored his sight. Other people soon discovered that by bathing in the spring’s waters, they too were healed of various afflictions. By Bernadette’s sixteenth vision at the site, the Lourdes grotto had become famous as a place for cures.

By 1883 the Catholic Church had established a panel of medical experts to investigate the Lourdes miracles, and this board deemed many of the cures authentic because people with documented disabilities and illnesses seemed to be healthy following their visit. Today approximately 3 million people visit the site each year seeking cures for a variety of ailments and conditions. In addition, miracle cures have supposedly taken place at religious shrines located elsewhere and dedicated to “Our Lady of Lourdes.” For example, while praying at a Lourdes shrine in Oostakker, Belgium, in 1875, Pierre de Rudder suddenly found that his crippled leg, which also had an open wound, was suddenly healed. His injury had been well documented before the miracle cure, and after his death a physician discovered that the fractured, twisted leg had been mended by the unexplained growth of new bone.

Various explanations unrelated to religion have been proposed in regard to why people who visit Lourdes shrines experience such cures. Some have suggested that the miracle cures at Lourdes were caused by Earth energy at Lourdes and certain other sites in the world, which they believe has healing powers, or by the experients’ own psychic ability to heal themselves. Skeptics have suggested that the people “healed” at the site, including the first person to be cured at Lourdes, had conditions that would have gone away by themselves, or that some people were never really sick to begin with. Regarding the latter, skeptics suggest that the people only thought they were sick, and that a visit to Lourdes satisfied a psychological need to be healed.


  • Earth Energy
  • Miracles


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning