Relics of the patron saint of a French city visited by millions of Catholics each year are to travel to the UK for the first time.
Carfin’s Cave in Motherwell, which celebrates its centenary this year, has been included as a Scottish stopover for a two-day exhibition of relics belonging to Saint Bernadette.
Bernadette Soubirous was the eldest daughter of a Lourdes miller and is said to have experienced 18 apparitions of a “young woman” between February 11 and July 16, 1858 who requested the construction of a chapel at the nearby grotto-cave of Massabielle.
After a canonical investigation, Soubirous’ reports were finally declared “trustworthy” on February 18, 1862, and the apparition became known as Our Lady of Lourdes.
Although she was rigorously interrogated by Catholic Church and French government officials, she remained true to her story.
On December 8, 1933, Pope Pius XI declared Soubirous a saint of the Catholic Church.
A film about her life starring Jennifer Jones – The Song of Bernadette – was made in 1943 and later made into a Broadway play.
Catholics believe that Soubirous’ body remained internally intact.
The sanctuary of Lourdes has become a major place of pilgrimage, attracting more than five million pilgrims of all faiths each year.
Bishops from across Scotland will gather at the shrine on Sunday, September 25 for a service that will conclude with a torchlight procession.
The Carfin Lourdes Grotto was created in the early 20th century and was designed by Father, later Canon Thomas N. Taylor, parish priest of St. Francis Xavier in the small mining village of Carfin, two miles east of Motherwell.
After a trip to France‘s main Marian shrine in Lourdes, Canon Taylor’s vision was to build a religious memorial based on the model of the Grotto of Massabielle.
Since its opening in the early 1920s, the ‘grotto’ has attracted hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from Scotland and beyond.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Motherwell said: “This year is very special for us at Carfin Grotto as we are celebrating 100 years since we opened in 1922.
“Closer to the date, we will email and let pilgrims know what is planned for each day of the relic visitation.”