For assessing the crowds at Lourdes’ sanctuary, Françoise-Steve, the heiress of Viron’s photos, has an unstoppable style: she keeps an eye on the size of her photos. “Look at the pilgrims in Brescia [dans le nord de l’Italie]And the 25 x 40 cm. Usually it’s 25 x 55. Groups come back, especially French, but they take up less space in front of the lens. » The one who portrayed his great-grandfather Bernadette Soberos, a century and a half ago, has a good commercial sense: “Less in the picture, they see themselves better, so they buy more. »
His duly handwritten spiral notebooks attest to the collapse in the number of pilgrimages organized during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 15,000 photos; In 2020, 400; This year, through August 10: 6,500. Business is booming, national opening pilgrimage, marking the weekend of August 15, should be the largest gathering of three years, marked by the return of white buses and trains. Prayer intentions sent from La Poste and audiences on YouTube do not replace, assure pilgrims, body escapes, moments of sympathy and physical contact. Lourdes is a spiritual trip with a low cost, sometimes 50 euros for the whole stay – as is the case in the poorly named Hotel Corona, located on the Rue du Calvaire.
However, Marianne’s wonderful hours seem light years away. On the lower city streets, we find more bicycle wheels than armchairs. On Monday, August 8, at the time of the morning mass in front of the Massabelle Grotto, a hundred patients and their companions communicate under the gaze of the Virgin and a numbing sun. Some signs claim to be a parish. We squeeze into the seats, and only these little circles drawn on the floor, without passengers, recall the era of social distancing. If we see them, then the plaza is far from full.
There was a time when we did the same thing.
Of all the high places in French tourism, it is Lourdes that is recovering the slowest from the health crisis. The campus estimates that its attendance in 2022 will be significantly lower than in 2019 (3.5 million visitors). Organized pilgrimages are halved, while the number of individual and small group visitors increases. The Italians and Spaniards are back, but we still hope there will be groups of Irish, English, Poles and South Americans.
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