Marie-Bernarde “Bernadette” Soubirous (January 7, 1844 – April 16, 1879) was the firstborn daughter of a miller from Lourdes, France, and is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church.
Soubirous is best known for the Marian apparitions of a “small young lady” who asked for a chapel to be built at the nearby garbage dump of the cave-grotto at Massabielle where apparitions are said to have occurred between 11 February and 16 July 1858. She would later receive recognition when the lady who appeared to her identified herself as the Immaculate Conception.
Despite initial skepticism from the Catholic Church, Soubirous’s claims were eventually declared “worthy of belief” after a canonical investigation, and the Marian apparition is now known as Our Lady of Lourdes. Since her death, Soubirous’s body has apparently remained internally incorrupt, but it is not without blemish; during her third exhumation in 1925, the firm of Pierre Imans made light wax coverings for her face and her hands due to the discoloration that her skin had undergone. These masks were placed on her face and hands before she was moved to her crystal reliquary in June 1925. The Marian shrine at Lourdes (Midi-Pyrénées, France) went on to become a major pilgrimage site, attracting over five million pilgrims of all denominations each year.
On December 8, 1933, Pope Pius XI declared Bernadette Soubirous a Saint of the Catholic Church. Her feast-day was fixed for February 18, the day her Lady promised to make her happy, not in this life, but in the next.