Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Rebirth for Lourdes

From The LA Times:
The centerpiece of Lourdes, a town of fewer than 15,000 residents that sees an estimated 5 million annual visitors, is the Gothic Notre Dame cathedral, built atop the grotto where Bernadette had her visions.
Visitors can walk through the grotto, touching the walls, sometimes as a priest conducts Mass in front. They then pass a series of fountains to fill jugs full of water or wait in line to bathe in the water from Bernadette’s stream. The Catholic Church says Lourdes has been the source of 70 medical miracles.
The sanctuary is surrounded by blocks of hotels and souvenir shops that for decades targeted a flux of tourists who arrived as part of large, organized pilgrimages.
About 10 years ago, the rate of those group pilgrimages began to plummet, mirroring changes in the Catholic Church, which has seen the percentage of its congregations in Europe fall and those in places like South America, Africa and Asia rise. Instead of busloads of pilgrims from places like Italy, Lourdes is seeing small groups of pilgrims from farther away.

In 2009, the town’s hotels reported 3,260,022 “nuitées,” a unit of measure in France’s tourism industry to count the number of nights a person spends somewhere. (For example, three people staying four nights makes 12 “nuitées.”) By 2017, the number of nuitées had fallen to 2,005,732, according to the French government’s official statistics agency. (Read more.)

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