THE BODY OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES
Andre Ravier, S.J.
Based on documents in the archives of the convent of Saint-Gildard, of the diocese and the city of Nevers.
Very fine wax masks were laid over the face and hands of St. Bernadette’s body in 1925 to disguise the sunken eyes and nose and the blackish tinge to the face and hands. During the first exhumation (1909) the face had been “a dull white” and the hands “perfectly preserved” but the nose was already “dilated and shrunken”. The eyes were not noted as having yet sunk. She died on April 16, 1879. Her body has not been embalmed or specially treated in any way.
On April 16, 1879, Bernadette—or Sister Marie-Bernard, as she was known within her order—died in the Sainte Croix (Holy Cross) Infirmary of the Convent of Saint-Gildard. She was thirty-five.
Born into a humble family which little by little fell into extreme poverty, Bernadette had always been a frail child. Quite young, she had already suffered from digestive trouble, then after having just escaped being a victim of the cholera epidemic of 1855, she experienced painful attacks of asthma, and her ill health almost caused her to be cut off for ever from the religious life. When asked by Monsignor Forcade to take Bernadette, Louise Ferrand, the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Nevers, replied: “Monsignor, she will be a pillar of the infirmary”. Continue reading