Aside from being the site of the famous apparitions of 1858, Lourdes has an interesting history, surprisingly turbulent at times for a place that is truly in the middle of nowhere. Most of the events were focused on the Château-Fort de Lourdes, the old castle which was at one time a Moorish stronghold, although its origins go back to antiquity. According to a traveler's guide:
The Gauls, Roman, Barbars and Moors successively took turns to strengthen the Lourdes rock on which the castle stands. This antique fortress is clothed in legend. In 778, Charlemagne and his army besieged the castle which was occupied at the time by Mirat, the Saracen, and his Moors. Despite attacks by the Francs and the onslaught of famine, Lourdes castle remained impenetrable.When I first visited Lourdes in April 1994 the castle intrigued me almost as much as did the shrines. I had never heard of it until arriving there, and when our guide took us up inside, the view of the Pyrenees was breathtaking. There are all kinds of legends and mysteries associated with the castle, including the caves which lie underneath the edifice. I decided to make it the setting for a novel about the Cathars, since for a time it had been a Cathar fortress. In spite of heresy and turmoil, it is a spot favored by the Mother of God. Share
Suddenly an eagle appeared in the sky. It flew around the fort and dropped an enormous trout from its beak, which landed at Mirat's feet. The clever Moor grabbed the fish and took it to Charlemagne to make him believe that he still had plenty of food reserves.
Charlemagne was just preparing to lift the siege when Turpin, his friend and Bishop of Puy-en-Velay, became inspired and was granted permission to go and talk to the besieged. He suggested that Mirat surrender, not to the sovereign but to the Queen of the skies.
This proposal pleased the Moor leader who promptly set down his weapons at the foot of the Black Virgin of Puy and was baptized. On the day of his baptism, Mirat was given the name "Lorus". This name was transferred to the village, which, in time, became Lourdes.