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29th June: Bernadette liked to celebrate the Feast of Saint Peter

When Bernadette Soubirous lived in Lourdes, she, along with all the inhabitants of Lourdes, celebrated the patronal feast of Saint Peter on 29th June. In fact, the original church that Bernadette knew was dedicated to Saint Peter. Even today, Lourdes celebrates on this date.

After the Apparitions of 1858, Father Peyramale decided to build a new parish church, larger than the church of Saint Peter that Bernadette had known.
From 1875, the work began. Interrupted by the death of the priest in 1877, the construction of the church was faced with many difficulties, financial in particular.
The new church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, was only completed in 1936, nearly 60 years after the first stone was laid!
The old Romanesque church of Saint Peter was demolished in 1905.

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The Church of the Sacred Heart and Bernadette

The Church of the Sacred Heart is nevertheless linked to Bernadette by the presence of:

– The baptismal font, on the left as you enter, which comes from the old Saint Peter’s church. This large Romanesque basin, in Lourdes marble, has four human faces at its base. It was classified as a Historic Monument in 1979. Bernadette was baptised here on 9th January 1844
Since January 2008, a beautiful altarpiece has also been on display there, created by Sister Mercedes of the Benedictine abbey of Dourgne (81) to mark the the Jubilee of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. In the centre of this work is the statue of Mary Immaculate, “Aquero”, as Bernadette called her.
The eight scenes depict the events that marked Bernadette’s spiritual journey from her Baptism to the First Holy Communion: her Baptism, on 9th January 1844, under the first name of Marie-Bernarde, her stay in Bartrès, the family at prayer in the Cachot, the first apparition on 11th February 1858, Bernadette’s testimony to the local authorities, the discovery of the spring, the passing on of the Lady’s name to the priest on 25th March 1858, and Bernadette’s First Holy Communion on 3rd June 1858.

– Two stained glass windows, one above the baptismal font, the other opposite, representing Bernadette confiding in Father Peyramale. They were restored in 2014.

– the Bender fresco, on the left transept, restored in 2013. Entitled “The Ecstasy of Bernadette”, this mural is the work of Stanislas Bender, a Polish Jewish painter. It was made as an ex-voto for the protection granted to his family during the dark hours of the Second World War.

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“And on this rock I will build my Church”

This year 2023, the Sanctuary of Lourdes is inviting pilgrims and visitors to delve deeper into the message of Lourdes through the mission that Our Lady gave to Bernadette on 2nd March 1858: “Go and tell the priests to build a chapel here…” Looking at the Grotto of Lourdes, we can we not call to mind the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (chap. 16, v. 18) “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”?

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