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St. Bernadette Soubirous

St. Bernadette Soubirous by Julie Lonneman

Artist's Narrative:

"I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river, but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them. Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads...

"I went back each day for fifteen days, and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there. I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally, with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven, she told me she was the Immaculate Conception."
—from a letter by Saint Bernadette

France, 1844-1879.

Her feast day is April 16.

Art Collection: 
Lonneman collection: 
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Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes 

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Lourdes was a small garrison town of four or five thousand inhabitants, situated in the foothills of the Pyrénées on the River Gave. It had a castle fortress, the sign of a fighting past, and for its size was up-to-date and progressive with the bulk of the population consisting of agricultural workers and quarrymen, and in the main practising Catholics. 

Bernadette Soubirous was the eldest of five children of hard-working parents who had fallen on hard times, and from operating a successful mill had been reduced to living with their family in one small room called the Cachot, which can still be seen today. Bernadette could hardly read or write, and suffered several childhood illnesses leaving her weak and asthmatic, and small for her age. From a very early age though, she showed signs of having immense faith in God, and when she was told she was stupid because she was unable to learn her Catechism, she whispered in a characteristic way that: ’At least she would always know how to love the good God.‘ She was a simple girl who worked partly in the house and partly, when with her aunt in Bartrès a village 4 miles from Lourdes, in the fields where her special task was to watch the sheep. 

Born: January 7, 1844 at Lourdes, France 

Died: April 16, 1879, Nevers, France 

Canonized: 1933 by Pope Pius XI 

Name Means: Brave as a bear 

Also known as:  Maria Bernadette; Marie Bernarde; Sleeping Saint of Nevers; Bernardette; Bernardetta; Bernada; Bernardette Soubirous