Bernadette Soubirous was born in the Boly Mill, on 7th. January 1844. Bernadette lived there for 10 years with her parents, François Soubirous and Louise Castérot; they gained a decent living as millers. She used to call the place the "Mill of Happiness", because it was there that she discovered something that is very important to every man and woman – human love.
Bernadette used to say that her mother and father loved each other. This experience made into a balanced person, especially at times of difficulty, poverty and sickness.
Bernadette as seen by her contemporaries...
Here is what contemporaries said about Bernadette:
1.) Marie Laguës, foster-mother of Bernadette.
- "As a baby, Bernadette was already very loveable, the neighbours loved to see her and to hold her in their arms."
- "You could not stop loving her enough, she was sweet and loveable."
- "Bernadette, in spite of the tiredness which was caused by her shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing, always appeared happy and cheerful. She never gave us any trouble, she took what she was given, and appeared happy. We loved her very much as well." (1857)
2.) Bernarde Castérot, aunt and godmother of Bernadette.
- "Bernadette was always good natured, she was very docile; when scolded, she never retaliated."
3.) Abbé Pène, Curate, or Assistant Priest, of the Parish of Lourdes in 1858.
- Bernadette was small for her age, puny, slightly asthmatic, her face was round but regular, beautiful eyes. Her slim size would allow her to pass for a young girl about two or three years younger than she really was."
- " everything about Bernadette radiated naïvety, simplicity, goodness."
4.) Jean Barbet, teacher.
- "Bernadette has difficulty to retain the Catechism word by word, because she cannot study, she does not know how to read, but she puts a lot of care into the appropriate meaning of the explanations. Besides, she is very attentive, above all very pious and modest."
Lourdes in the 19th. century
Lourdes in the 19th. century was one of the main places in the district with more than 4,000 inhabitants including nobles, notaries, advocates, doctors, officers as well as manual workers, tradesmen, slate workers, small artisans such as millers. Mills were plentiful; many were dotted around outside the town, along one of the streams that flowed into the Gave - the Lappaca.