The Notre Dame of Lourdes sanctuary was built in 1858, after the apparition of the Virgin Mary in the small ‘Massabielle’ grotto, along the ‘Gave de Pau’ river. It is the largest catholic center in France, with 6 million pilgrims a year. The site is open day and night, with prayers going on in the grotto from 7 am to midnight. ‘Lourdes TV’ broadcasts a shot of the grotto 24/7. The site is designated historical monument.
In 2013, the diocese undertook a vast renovation plan for the grotto space, fountains, access to holy baths and light chapels.
The site is both exceptional and unique, as it is made of welcome spaces, spaces for contemplation, for prayer and circulation spaces, all of it for a very dense crowd and all-night long. The nighttime dimension emphasizes the symbolic nature of the space, and conditions many pilgrims in their journey and spiritual experience. Light guides and renders the various functions of the site legible: the grotto ritual, the gesture of water, and prayer.
The lighting of the esplanade of the grotto is made of both low lighting that allows visitors to see the nighttime landscape, and front lighting from two tall poles bordering the half dome (‘conque’) that forms the esplanade.