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The enquiry: 1858–1862

Read the eighteen apparitions chronicle

Gravure représentant la première apparition, à LourdesThe bishop of Tarbes , Mgr. Laurence did not allow things to drag on : the 18 Apparitions took place from 11th. February to 16th. July 1858 and on 28th. July 1858 he appointed a commission of enquiry "to gather and to set down the facts about what happened or what could happen again in the Grotto of Lourdes ; to inform us of these, to make us aware of their nature, and to furnish us, as well, with all the important elements involved in order to arrive at a solution...The Commission had to examine the cures caused by using the water of the Grotto. Is the water natural or supernatural? Are the visions of Bernadette true? If 'yes'; are they of divine character? Did the object that appeared make demands of the child? What were these demands? Did the spring in the Grotto exist before the vision which Bernadette claimed to have had? And the Bishop insisted, in his mandate, which set up the Commission, of the seriousness of the work in hand : an enquiry to establish the facts, question the witnesses, consult with scientists not just with doctors who cared for the sick before their cures, but also those who specialise in physical science, chemistry, geology : "The Commission must neglect nothing in order to tie up all loose ends and arrive at the truth, whatever it may be." For almost four years the Commission made its enquiry, during which it questioned Bernadette, and the Bishop gave his conclusion in the famous document of 18th. January 1862 "giving the judgement on the Apparitions which took place at the Grotto of Lourdes."