A small town with 15,000 inhabitants at the foot of the Pyrenees; this is Lourdes, one of the world’s great spiritual centres. Every year around 6 million visitors pour into the Marian city (8 million in 2008 for the 150th Anniversary of the Apparitions). You will be surprised by the unique atmosphere of spirituality, peace and friendship you will discover here.It was on the banks of the gave (the name for a fast-fl owing Pyrenean mountain stream), in the Grotte de Massabielle (Massabielle Cave), that the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, changing Lourdes destiny forever.Emerging as a hymn to faith, the Shrines are arranged along a huge esplanade. You can explore the crypt buried at the base of the cave (the original sanctuary), the upper basilica (1866), the Rosary basilica with its 15 chapels decorated with superb Venetian mosaics (1883-1889), the amazing Saint-Pius-X underground basilica (1958) and finally the Sainte Bernadette Church (1988) and theNotre Dame reception area, inaugurated in 1997.The Marian city welcomes millions of visitors of all nationalities and faiths to these various places of prayer. More than 100,000 mostly young volunteers offer help to sick people and those in difficulty.A cosmopolitan atmosphere, a friendly ambience and shared emotions represent Lourdes’ strengths and its “message”. It is a universal message based on three strong symbols: the purifying water, the rock and the light.A walk in the centre of Lourdes will allow you to soak up the town’s atmosphere. Lourdes is accustomed to welcoming the whole world, but it has not lost any of its Pyrenean village character. A fortified 11th century château, formerly a refuge for the counts of Bigorre, stands at the top of Lourdes’ rocky heights. Its streets are grouped around the markets and the parish church.Finally, standing in the foreground of the nearby mountains, Lourdes is dominated by the Pic du Jer. As soon as you arrive, take the Pic du Jer funicular and enjoy the extremely invigorating view of the Lourdes area and the jagged outline of the Pyrenean summits.