St. Bernadette

St. Bernadette was a woman from France who saw apparitions as a young woman. She died at the young age of 35 and is now a saint in the Catholic Church. In this article, we’ll cover her life and why she became a saint.

Interesting Facts About St. Bernadette

*Feast Day: April 16
*Patron Saint of France, illness, shepherds and shepherdesses, France, those mocked for being pious or poor
*Birth: January 6, 1844
*Death: April 16, 1879
*Beatified: 1925
*Canonized: December 1933

Early Life

Before becoming a Catholic saint, Bernadette was a young woman known as Marie Bernarde Soubirous. Her mother, Louise, worked as a laundress, and her father, Francois, was a miller. Born on January 6, 1844, she was only one when her parents had their second child, a small boy who passed away. Though her parents had a total of nine children, most did not live beyond infancy. She was sick for much of her life and caught cholera at a young age.


Bernadette’s family had very little money and eventually moved to a small basement apartment that locals previously used for prisoners. They shared a single room and grew quite close. Bernadette was only 14 when she saw the apparitions that she would see later. She claimed to see a figure step out of the shadows covered in a blinding white light. When she returned to the spot a second time, she witnessed the same vision and was so moved that she instantly bowed in prayer. Bernadette saw a total of 16 visions, which led her to ask the city to build a new chapel in the vision’s honor near where she saw the spirit.


As the first to experience visions in Lourdes, some call Bernadette the mother of the region. She turned to a local priest with her requests and helped oversee the creation of a chapel now called the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. Many people who visited claimed that when they drank from the nearby water, they were cured of their ailments.

Later Years

Though she sought attention for her visions, Bernadette was never comfortable with the attention that others gave her. She believed that she only did what the visions told her and what anyone else would do in her position. After helping the Sisters of Charity of Nevers with some of their efforts, she thought about joining the order and becoming a nun but worried that her poor health would prevent her. Bernadette began reading more about Saint Bernard in her later years and would often write copies of some of the work that spoke to her, even calling him her patron saint. While living in Nevers, France, she passed away at the age of 35.


Pope Pius X blessed Bernadette in 1925 and canonized her eight years later. Before her beatification, the Catholic Church requested the exhumation of her body. The Church claimed that her body never decomposed, which was a sign that she was a saint. Though the Church exhumed Bernadette several additional times, her body remained preserved. Her body as well as the apparitions she witnessed helped with the beatification process.

Quick Facts About St. Bernadette

*Historians now believe that the illnesses she had as a child caused her short stature. Despite having many followers, she never grew beyond the 4’7” size she reached as a young teen.
*The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes has the relics of St. Bernadette on display as well as several rocks from the grotto where she had her visions.
*A French director made a short film about the life of St. Bernadette in 1909, which was her first depiction in film. More than 10 films and television shows told the story of the saint’s life and aired in Germany, France, the United States and other countries.
*The grotto where she saw the apparitions is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the world and receives more than one million visitors a year. A shrine to the Virgin Mother in the same grotto gets several million visitors also.
*Though Bernadette joined the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, she never became a full nun. An image from just after she joined depicts her wearing a habit and dark clothing.