Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age (Compass)

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9780140196184: Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age (Compass)

An in-depth history of the world's most famous healing shrine traces the dramatic influence of Lourdes on the Catholic Church and its faith, from Bernadette Soubirous's 1858 visions of the Virgin Mary to his evolution into an important pilgrimage site. Reprint.

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Review:

Lourdes by Ruth Harris is a compulsively readable history of the most famous Catholic healing shrine in the world. In 1858, a peasant girl named Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary in a grotto. Millions of pilgrims from around the world have since traveled to Lourdes in order to petition the Virgin for healing. In Harris's hands, the story of Lourdes (up to World War I) is "a story about France, about the struggles of Catholics in the aftermath of revolutionary turmoil, the capacity of the Second Empire to adjust to, and even profit from, religious movements, and the inability of the Third Republic to suppress them." It is also "a focal point in the wider debate between science and religion, and between anti-clericalism and clericalism." If you don't have the historical knowledge to recognize or consider all of the topics identified above, don't worry about it. Harris will give it to you, in language that is as down to earth as it is sophisticated. Her arguments (illustrated by dozens of fascinating photographs) range widely, but through them all she remains attentive to "one fixed point: the essential image of a young, poverty-stricken and sickly girl kneeling in ecstasy in a muddy grotto." --Michael Joseph Gross

About the Author:

Ruth Harris is Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at New College, Oxford. She is now writing a new work on the emergence of modernism.

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