In 1858 near the tiny French town of Lourdes, a young peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the Virgin Mary in a grotto. Since then Lourdes has become the most visited shrine in the world, hosting nearly five million pilgrims each year. Historian Ruth Harris traces this shrine's incredible development, placing Lourdes at the center of nineteenth-century debates on religion, science, and medicine that still continue today. She examines the pivotal role of women and children as visionaries, devotees, and advocates, addressing issues of mysticism and nonorthodox faith that speak to our own era of spirituality. Above all, she explores how, at a moment in French history when the Catholic Church was under attack, this place of pilgrimage improbably prospered.
"A splendid book ...scholarly, impeccably researched, and compulsively readable."Karen Armstrong, The Sunday Times (London)
"A fascinating and sensitive book ...Lourdes's global impact is all the more reason to welcome this wellwritten, engaging and innovative history, openended and openhearted.... Both those who love Lourdes and those curious at a distance will find deep pleasure in this book." William A. Christian, Jr., The New York Times Book Review
With her fascinating and sensitive book, Harris has made Lourdes visible, almost unavoidable...An evolving narrative with a changing iconography...She pays special attention to women...Those who love Lourdes and those curious at a distance will find deep pleasure in this book.