The small French town of Lourdes centers around the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, the largest Catholic pilgrimage destination in France and perhaps the most popular Catholic sacred site in the world. The town of only 17,000 inhabitants receives more than 5 million pilgrims and tourists each year.
Yearly from March to October the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes or the Domain (as it is most commonly known) is the place of mass pilgrimages from Europe and other parts of the world. The spring water from the grotto is believed by some to possess healing properties. An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860, and the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognized 68 miracle healings. Especially impressive are candlelight and sacrament processions. Tours from all over the world are organised to visit the Sanctuary. Connected with this pilgrimage is often the consumption of or bathing in the Lourdes Water which wells out of the Grotto – the cave in which the apparitions took place in 1858.