Lourdes apparitions of Our Lady began in 1858, when a 14-year old peasant girl from Lourdes called Bernadette, was visited 18 times by the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Bernadette told her mother about the enchanted first vision and how wonderful it was to such a beautiful lady. Bernadette's Mother questioned her in disbelief, Bernadette answered her mothers question by saying I have seen a "lady" in the cave of Massabielle.
The day Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary for the first time was on the 11 February 1858, while gathering firewood with her sister and friend.
The 1st appearance (11 February)
The Cachot where the Soubirous family lived was cold and without firewood. At about 11 o'clock Bernadette and her sister Toinette and her friend Jeanne Abadie went to gather firewood around the Massabielle. Having arrived at the mill, instead of going on into the woods, they came to a river and realized they could go no further, Bernadette's sister and friend prepared to cross the water, soon Bernadette was alone on the other side, so Bernadette decided to try and cross the water without taking her stockings off, this was not possible and she returned back to the Grotto and started taking her stockings off. Bernadette heard a noise and looked towards the Grotto. Bernadette raised her head to look at the grotto again, after hearing the noise for a second time, she saw a lady dressed in white with a blue sash and a yellow roses on each foot. Bernadette took out her rosary and wanted to make the sign of the cross, but was unable to her, hand trembled. The lady she was seeing made the sign of the cross and the second time Bernadette manage to repeat the same actions of the lady who was dressed in white. Bernadette recited the the rosary and then the lady disappeared.
This was Bernadette's first apparition.
On realizing that she alone had seen the apparition, and not her sister or friend, she asked them not to tell a soul what she had seen. Toinette, was unable to keep a secret, and told their mother Louise Soubirous. Bernadette mother questioned her and forbid her to return to the Grotto again.
The 2nd appearance (14 February)
The second apparition that took place in Lourdes is one of the most difficult to reconstruct, because the events that took place were in fact not easy to place in their exact order.
The second time Bernadette went to the grotto (forbidden at first by her mother) was Sunday. After High Mass, her sister and friend asked Bernadette's mother again and she gave me permission to go.
The apparition took place between midday and 2pm. Bernadette asked the lady to remain if she came from God and sprinkled holy water on her, she collected the holy water from the parish, the lady replied with a smile. Bernadette was immobile, and her eyes fixed on the grotto started to say her rosary. Due to Bernadette being immobile she was carried back to the mill where she regained full consciousness, and was scorned by her mother "NEVER TO RETURN AGAIN"
The 3rd appearance (18 February)
Bernadette did not return to the grotto on the 15,16 and 17th their for no apparitions happened.
On the 18th Bernadette was accompanied by some reliable people to the grotto, villagers Jeanne-Marie, Milhet and Antionette Peyret,
For the first time on the 18th of February the lady spoke to Bernadette. Bernadette took to the grotto her paper and pen and asked the Lady " what is your name and what is it that you wish from me" the lady smiled and said "it is not necessary for you to write what down what I have to say", but asked Bernadette for a favor "would you please return for the next 15 days". Bernadette agreed. The Lady also told Bernadette "that she could not promise to make me happy in this world, but in the next."
The 4th appearance (19 February)
The 4th apparition happened in the early hours of Friday morning. Bernadette goes along to the grotto with her mother Aunt Bernarde and 10 other people all holding a candle for protection. Bernadette said that the lady asked her to leave her candle at the grotto. She said "It my aunts I'll will ask her, and if she say yes, I will."
The 5th appearance (20 February)
on the 5th apparition thirty people were present, the news of Bernadette and the apparition was traveling around the village and other towns and people came out of curiosity. Bernadette later said that the lady had learned her a new prayer, which she said recited every day of her life, the prayer was never repeated or wrote down to anyone.
People assumed that Bernadette's lady was the Blessed Virgin Mary,
The 6th appearance (21 February)
This was the first Sunday in Lent with the apparition taking place in the early hours of the morning. A large number of over 100 people were present, also present was the police on orders Dominique Jacomet the Commissioner. Bernadette as normal recited the Rosary and silently meditated. Afterwards Bernadette was interrogated by Dominique Jacomet, and Bernadette's father (Francois Soubirous) told Dominique Jacomet " I assure you that my daughter will no longer go to that grotto". This was the first official ingratiation by the authorities
The 7th appearance (23 February)
Even thou Bernadette was banded from the grotto she punctually returns and keeps her promise and her appointment with the lady. Even more people turned up this time, over 150 people, including Jean-Baptiste Estrade (a tax inspector), Duffo from the municipal council, the future mayor of Lourdes, and the officers from the garrison were present. Questioned on what happened Bernadette said later that the lady had entrusted her a secrets that concern her alone, adding that she can never reveal them
The 8th appearance (24 February)
The lady speaks with Bernadette entrusting her with a message, asking prayers for penitence, over 200-300 people were present. The lady said Pray to God for sinners. Kiss the earth as a sign of penitence for sinners!" The lady also told Bernadette to eat the grass growing below the grotto. From that moment every time Bernadette visited grotto she repeated the same act.
The 9th appearance (25 February)
300 people present at the grotto despite the weather being cold. The Lady told Bernadette that she should go and drink at the grotto and wash her self their. Seeing no water Bernadette was confused and therefore went to drink at the Gave. The lady called her back and pointed at a spot just below the grotto to the left. Bernadette started digging with her hands and eating the herbs, she then uncovered a puddle of muddy water. Bernadette obeyed the Lady and carried on scratching the ground until she was able to drink some of the water, after the fourth time of disregarding the muddy water.
When the apparition finished Bernadette said later "I do not know why the lady disappeared" and she went home. Bernadette was interrogated again.
The spring began to flow a day later.
The 10th appearance (27 February)
About 800 people were present and Bernadette repeats the acts of penitence and takes up her usual position.
The 11th appearance (28 February)
Over 1,500 people were present.
It is the second Sunday in lent, after mass an unpleasant surprise awaited Bernadette, she was questioned by Judge Ribes the 3rd interrogation to commence. Bernadette was banned once again from the grotto and she relayed " i will never give up.
The 12th appearance (1 March)
There were more than 1450 people present. Catherine Latapie claimed that she immersed her baby in the spring water at the grotto. Catherine Latapie baby had a paralyzed arm, miraculously he regained full movement. This was the first of the recognized cure to take place in Lourdes.
The 13th appearance (2 March)
The Madonna spoke to Bernadette and commanded her to "Go, tell the priests to come here in procession and tell them to build a chapel here." Bernadette went straight to to ask Fr. Peyramale which this wonderful new, Fr. Peyramale called Bernadette a liar and told her she must never return to the grotto, then he told her to leave. Bernadette was did not give up home and returned once again with one of the priests friends and repeated what the lady had told her, "Go, tell the priests to come here in procession and tell them to build a chapel here." Fr. Peyramale says "a chapel! a procession! poor child this is all what your stories needed" then in a sharp tone he says" ask this lady her name and when we know it we will build a sanctuary".
The 14th appearance (3 March)
Bernadette asked the lady for her name, the lady smiled.
The 15th appearance (4 March)
Eight thousand people turned up for the 15th apparition. for the 3rd time Bernadette went to see M. le Cur?, to tell him what the Lady had ordered "Go, tell the priests to come here in procession and tell them to build a chapel here." M. le Cur? looked at Bernadette for a moment, and said to her, 'Who is this lady?' Bernadette did not know who this Lady was. The commissioned ordered Bernadette to find out this Lady's name and only to return with an answer. Bernadette asked the lady for her name again, the lady smiled once more.
The 16th appearance (25 March)
On the 16th Bernadette announced the lady's name. Bernadette said "I went for a fortnight and every day I asked the lady who she was, but these questions only made her smile".
When Bernadette found out the Lady's name, the lady said 'I am the Immaculate Conception.' She was asked by an onlooker "are you I absolutely certain". Bernadette replied "yes".
The 17th appearance (7 April)
The town physician Dr. Pierre Romaine Dozous, watched the apparitions from a skeptical point of view. He believed Bernadette, and knew her to be genuine and not a person to make up wild stories. He place all the evidence together and decided to write a medical article explaining that one can have illusions or hallucinations without being insane and that Bernadette was not insane.
The apparition took place between Bernadette and the Virgin Mary about 5 0'clock in the morning with no conversation at all and it was reported that "Bernadette seemed to be even deeper, than usual trance. This was witnessed by hundreds of people.This is when the "miracle of the candle" happened, Bernadette was kneeling and saying her usual prayers with her Rosary while holding in her left hand, in her right hand was large lit candle. While Bernadette was saying her prayers she suddenly stopped, and joined her right hand with her left hand, their a flame from the big candle passed between Bernadette's fingers followed by a strong breeze. The flame from the touching candle made no marks on Bernadette's skin. After 15 minutes Bernadette, made way to the upper part of the grotto. When Bernadette and the apparition finished Dr. Pierre Romaine Dozous asked Bernadette to show her left hand for examination, their was no trace of burning marks an her hands. I then asked the person who was holding the candle to light it again and passe me the candle. Dr. Pierre Romaine Dozous reacted the candle burning under Bernadette's hand but she drew her hand away, saying 'You are burning me!'. This was confirmed by hundreds of eye witnesses.
Public access was denied on he 8th June in 1858, visitors were fined and guards protected grotto.
The 18th appearance (16 July)
The last apparition was never mentioned by Bernadette when making her depositions.
The grotto was still barricaded. Bernadette had to take another road to enter the grotto from the other side of the river. In front of the barricaded grotto is a private property. Kneeling outside the fence by the riverbank Bernadette said "I thought I was at the Grotto, like I saw the other times. All I saw was Our Lady , She was more beautiful than ever." the immaculate conception said noting and Bernadette never saw her again.
The grotto reopens to the public in October of 1858, ordered by the Emperor Louis Napoleon III.