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Bernadette Soubirous


Born: 7 January 1844
Died: 16 April 1879 (lung disease)
Birthplace: Lourdes, France
Best known as:

The girl who saw the Virgin Mary at Lourdes

Name at birth: Marie Bernarde Soubirous


Bernadette of Lourdes is the French saint whose body is said to have been miraculously preserved. In 1858, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous had a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near Lourdes. Despite some public skepticism, Bernadette held to her belief in the visions, which eventually were accepted as genuine by officials of the Catholic church. A shrine was built at the grotto in Lourdes, and the waters are still considered by many to have miraculous healing properties. Bernadette later joined a convent in Nevers, France, where she spent her adult life. After her death she was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.

Extra credit:

Bernadette's body was exhumed three times in the early 1900s in the course of research for her beatification. Each time the corpse was reportedly "incorrupt" -- that is, remarkably well preserved. Eventually a layer of wax was placed over her features, and her body is now kept in a special shrine in Nevers... The saint's story was told in the 1942 book Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel; a 1943 movie based on the book was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, and actress Jennifer Jones won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Bernadette... It's true: pop singer Madonna named her first child Lourdes.

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