It was in 1858, more than 150 years ago, that the Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to the young Bernadette Soubirous. The 14-year-old girl lived with her family in difficult conditions until the day the Virgin Mary appeared to her in the grotto at Lourdes.
Thursday 11 February: First apparition
As Bernadette Soubirous went to fetch wood from the grotto of Massabielle, with her sister and a friend, the first apparition took place. Bernadette saw a silent Lady dressed all in white appear to her. She returns home and discusses it with her parents, who forbid her to speak of it or to return.
Sunday 14 February: the rosary and holy water
Bernadette faces the second apparition of the Virgin without her father's knowledge. Inside her, Bernadette felt the need to return to the grotto... Once at the grotto, she began to recite a rosary. Then the same Lady appeared before her, smiling at her with her head bowed. The Lady then throws holy water on her and as soon as the prayer is over, she disappears.
Thursday 18 February: The apparition with sound
Bernadette returns to the grotto three days later. For the third time, the miracle happens and the Lady appears to her again. Only this time the Lady speaks. Bernadette holds out her hands with a kind of tray inside, containing what is needed for writing, and asks her to write her name. The Lady replied that this was not essential, adding, "I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the next. Will you do me the grace of coming here for a fortnight? With that, Bernadette went to the grotto every day for the next fifteen days.
Friday 19 February: The candle
Bernadette went to the grotto for the first day of the fortnight of apparitions, and the fourth miraculous apparition took place. Bernadette held a lighted candle in her hand. It is this gesture that still inspires millions of faithful to come and burn a candle in turn at the Grotto of Lourdes.
This is the fifth apparition of the Virgin Mary, who speaks to Bernadette and teaches her a personal prayer. When the Virgin disappears, Bernadette feels sad and has a feeling of unease that haunts her.
During the sixth apparition, Bernadette goes to the Grotto early in the morning, accompanied by a hundred people. But the Lady did not appear. Bernadette is therefore questioned by the gendarmes, more precisely by the police commissioner Jacomet, who would like to know more about what the Lady is telling her and what she sees during the apparitions. But Bernadette only talks to him about "Aquero" (that).
Tuesday 23 February: The mystery
During the 7th apparition Bernadette goes to the grotto with 150 people and during the apparition she is said to have discovered a personal secret addressed especially to her.
Wednesday 24 February: The message
During the 8th apparition, Bernadette Soubirous receives a message of prayer and penance from the Lady: "Penance! Penance! Penance! Pray to God for sinners! Go and kiss the earth in penance for sinners.
Thursday 25 February: The spring and its holy water
At the 9th apparition with a total of 300 people behind her, Bernadette goes to the Grotto. The lady tells her that she must go and drink from the spring: "Go and drink from the fountain and wash yourself. You will eat from the grass that is there. Bernadette gets down on her knees, and starts kissing the ground. She shows an unusual excitement. She goes to the bottom of the cave and starts to dig. First she pulls out a muddy, dirty water, which she drinks, before eating a leaf of grass growing nearby. Some of the onlookers who followed her thought she was crazy, but Bernadette replied that "it's for sinners".
For the 10th apparition, with more than 800 people present, Bernadette repeats the same words and gestures of penance as on 24 February.
At the 11th apparition, Bernadette has more than a thousand people looking around her. She repeats her gestures of penance again, in front of the crowd, made up of people from all the neighbouring villages, and even some officers from Tarbes. Seeing the girl's ecstasy and strange behaviour, the officers take her to the judge who threatens her with prison if she returns to the Grotto.
Monday 1 March: Healing
Defying the ban, Bernadette went back for the 12th apparition with more than fifteen hundred people, including a priest for the very first time. On the night of March 1st, a sick person, Catherine Latapie, dipped her withered arm in the water. Miraculously, she immediately regained the flexibility of her disabled arm.
Tuesday 2 March: For the priests
For the 13th apparition, the Blessed Virgin has a message for the priests: "Go and tell the priests that they should come here in procession and build a chapel. After this request from the Lady, Bernadette passed on the message to the parish priest of Lourdes, Father Peyramale. But the Abbot is angry and has only one thing in mind: to know the name of the Lady.
Wednesday 3 March: sympathy, affection and kindness
14th apparition: By 7 a.m., more than three thousand people are with Bernadette at the Grotto. However, there is no sign of the Lady. Bernadette went off to other things, until she felt the call of the grotto again. She goes back immediately, and the Lady is there. She asks her name again, but only gets a smile in reply. Bernadette goes back to ask the priest about the construction of the chapel. The priest replies: "If the Lady really wants her chapel, let her give her name and let her make the rosebush bloom at the Grotto!
15th apparition: This is the last day of the fortnight. Everyone was expecting a miracle on this last day but the vision remained silent. Bernadette felt like leaving and found no point in returning immediately.
20 days passed before Bernadette returned to the cave.
Thursday 25 March: revelation
16th apparition: the Lady says her name: "Que soy era Immaculada Conception" (I am the Immaculate Conception). It was not until the sixteenth apparition that the vision finally revealed her name, even though the rosebush had not yet bloomed.
Wednesday 7 April: The Flame
For the 17th apparition, Bernadette wanted to go to the Grotto discreetly. A friend of the family leads her. Bernadette is praying and protects the flame of her lighted candle between her fingers. The flame surrounds her hands for a long time without burning them.
18th apparition: At this time, the Grotto was protected by barriers, and no one could enter. Accompanied by her aunt, Bernadette went to the other side of the Gave... This is where the last apparition of the Virgin Mary took place. It was there that the last apparition of the Virgin Mary took place, a vision in which Bernadette declared that she had never seen the Virgin as beautiful as she was that day.