Lourdes is coming to us

A pilgrimage of the relics of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous, is coming to the Archdiocese of Birmingham this October.

The relics will be visiting St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham, Our Lady of Lourdes in Hednesford and the Immaculate Conception in Bicester over the weekend of 7 - 10 October.

A section of bone from Saint Bernadette's thigh will be taken to major cathedrals and churches of the dioceses of England, Scotland and Wales as part of a national pilgrimage.

The Shrine of Lourdes approached the English and Welsh bishops in 2021 with the offer of the pilgrimage of the relics and the bishops accepted.

The remains of Saint Bernadette are preserved in a shrine in the town of Nevers, 700 kilometres north of Lourdes. 

Quick Links

The Story of Lourdes

Venues to visit in our Archdiocese

Reliquary of Saint Bernadette / The Relics

National Relics website

The Story of Lourdes

Taken from this year's Lourdes booklet for the 80th Diocesan Pilgrimage:

Bernadette Soubirous was born on 7th January 1844 in Lourdes, a town of 4,000 people.

Her parents were Francois and Louise. She was baptised Marie Bernarde but she was known as Bernadette. Her father was a miller, but the family did not prosper financially and they ended up in debt and homeless. A relative gave them the cachot, a former prison, to live in. The family of six lived in this one room.

Bernadette suffered from bad asthma, and the cold damp cachot did not help her. At 13 she was sent to Marie Aravant Lagüe, a nurse in Bartrès, a place she had stayed when a child. This was a help to her health and was also a chance for her to learn her catechism, allowing her to receive her first Holy Communion. She knew no prayers, except those of the Rosary. Circumstances changed in Bartrès, though, and in January 1858 Bernadette returned to Lourdes. She then saw the Virgin Mary eighteen times.

On the 18th January 1862, the Bishop of Tarbes announced the findings of the Church Commission:
“It is our judgement that Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, truly appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on 11th February 1858 and on subsequent days, eighteen times in all, in the Grotto of Massabielle, close to the town of Lourdes.”

This year's Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes took place from Sunday 29 May - Thursday 2 June.

The Sanctuary of Lourdes suggested as a pastoral theme the words that Mary, the Mother of God, entrusted to Bernadette Soubirous on 2nd March 1858: “Go tell the priests to build a chapel here and that people should come in procession.”

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Venues to visit in our Archdiocese:

To ensure the comfort and safety of pilgrims, visitors will be asked to register to attend with a dedicated timeslot. Further details of how to book your place will be shared in due course. Please save the dates for now.

St Chad's Cathedral

Friday 7 October

6pm - Cathedral open

7pm - Liturgy of Welcome & Evening Prayer. Followed by Veneration of the Relics until midnight.

Midnight - Cathedral closed

Saturday 8 October

8am - Veneration of the Relics until 11.30am

12noon - Mass with Anointing of the Sick

1.30pm - Veneration of the Relics until 5.30pm

6pm - Mass

7.30pm - Relics depart Cathedral

Location: St Chad’s Cathedral, Queensway, Birmingham, B4 6EU.

Train: For those travelling by train, the Cathedral is a five-minute walk from Snowhill Station and a 10 to 15-minute walk from Birmingham Grand Central (New St) and Moor St stations. If necessary, there are usually plenty of taxis available outside the stations.

Bus: The nearest bus stops to the Cathedral are at Colmore Row, Snowhill and Lancaster Circus. There are no bus routes that drop you outside St Chad’s on the Queensway.

Car: For those travelling by car, there is currently a one-way traffic system in place on Shadwell St.

Please also be aware that the Birmingham Clean Air Zone is now in operation and may affect your journey into the city by car. Click here for more information

There are parking bays at the front of the Cathedral for Blue Badge holders and parking is limited to a three-hour period.

The Cathedral Car park is on Shadwell St, B4 6EY. People are welcome to park on a first come first served basis, however we take no responsibility for cars parked and can’t guarantee you won’t be blocked in.

The nearest car park to the Cathedral is the Birmingham Royal Angus NCP, directly across the road, and there is a large Birmingham City Council car park above Snowhill Station, Livery St, B3 2BJ.

Alternatively there are a number of smaller car parks to the rear of the Cathedral on Bath St, Lower Loveday St, Vesey St and Cecil St; and plenty of on-street metered parking.

Accessibility: Access to the Cathedral is via the entrance on St Chad’s Queensway and is all on one level so is open to all.

Toilet facilities: Please be aware that there is very limited access to toilets at the Cathedral.

Our Lady of Lourdes, Hednesford (home of the Diocesan Shrine)

Saturday 8 October, In Church.

10pm - Prayers of Welcome

10.15pm - Midnight - Veneration of the Relics

Midnight - Night Prayer

Sunday 9 October, In the Grotto.

8am - Morning Prayer

8.15am - 3.30pm - Veneration of the Relics

2.30 - 3.30pm - Individual Confessions & Anointing

4pm - Mass - Celebrant, Archbishop Bernard Longley

Location: The Church and Shrine is on Uxbridge Street on the A460, Hednesford, WS12 1DB.

Train: Service from New Street, Birmingham to Hednesford. 

Car: Hednesford, near Cannock, is a couple of miles off Junction 11 of the M6 and Junction T7 of the Toll Road. Follow signs to Hednesford and Rugeley A460. 

Accessibility: The church and the grotto have wheelchair access from the top car park. The hall has wheelchair access from the bottom car park.

Toilet facilities: In the church and the hall.

Immaculate Conception, Bicester

Sunday 9 October

9pm - Arrival & Prayers of welcome

9.15pm to Midnight - Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; Veneration of the Relics & Rosary; candle light procession

12 Midnight - Holy Mass

Monday 10 October

7am - Veneration of the Relics

8am - Morning Prayer

8.15am to 9am - Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament & Veneration of the Relics

9.05am - Holy Mass

10am - Rosary - live streaming to all Catholic schools (Pupils from various Catholic schools to participate)

10.30am to 12.45pm - Anointing of the Sick

1pm - Concelebrated Mass

2pm - Departure to Northampton Diocese.

Location: Immaculate Conception, The Causeway, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX26 6AW.

Train: Nearest train stations are Bicester North Station and Bicester Village, both are about a 15-minute walk. 

Bus: S5 bus from Oxford to Bicester runs frequently. Get off at Sainsburys in Bicester and it’s a five-minute walk. 

Car: Limited car parking spaces available at the church - approx. 10.

Sainsburys has three hours of free parking – five-min walk.
Market Square car park – five-min walk.
Chapel St car park - three-min walk.
Cattle Market - pay on exit – 10-min walk.
Some limited road parking - free.

Accessibility: Church steps and a ramp.

Toilet facilities: Available. Two disabled toilets.

Reliquary of Saint Bernadette Soubirous by Maison Granda, Spain

The Relics

On 18th April 1925, forty-six years after her death, the body of Bernadette SOUBIROUS was exhumed so that relics could be retrieved.
This mission was entrusted to Doctors COMTE and TALON. Doctor COMTE took the first samples from the body which “was of a soft and almost normal consistency”, he wrote in 1928 in the Bulletin of the Medical Association at Our Lady of Lourdes.

On 14th June 1925, Pius XI proclaimed Bernadette SOUBIROUS “Blessed”. Her body was then transferred to its current shrine in Nevers on 18th July 1925.

On 8th December 1933, Pope Pius XI canonised Saint Bernadette, and her feast day is celebrated in the Church of France on 18th February.

The “Original Acts”, preserved in the Archives of Nevers and written in Latin, indicate that taken for the relics were:

• A fragment of the 5th and 6th rib
• The kneecaps
• A sample of muscle, from the external part of the right femur
• Hair and various fragments which came from muscles and skin

The conservation and attribution of these relics were entrusted to the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, under the vigilance of the Bishop of Nevers.

These relics were given, in the form of ex-carne or ex-ossibus fragments, by the Sisters of Nevers, to various houses of their Congregation.

The relic in the reliquary, which will travel through the United Kingdom, is an ex-carne relic, given to the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception (Fathers of Garaison), founded in 1836. From 1866, it was this congregation which managed the Sanctuary of Lourdes, at the request of Mgr. Laurence, Bishop of Tarbes.

In 2018, the Very Reverend Father Horacio BRITO, Superior General of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception entrusted this relic to the Sanctuary of Lourdes. It is now in the reliquary made in Spain by the Maison Granda workshop. This reliquary was solemnly unveiled in Lourdes on 30th May 2019.

National relics website

A dedicated website on the national tour has been launched for the occasion.

It contains details of The Tour, St Bernadette, What Are Relics?, Continuing the Journey and much more.

Visit the national website