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Unholy goings on in Lourdes

What would Jesus say to all this? After kicking all the evil traders out of his father’s house only to arrive in Lourdes and find both Sodom and Gomorrah larging it up big style at the unholy riviera’s top nightspots?

More than likely he’d comment that Lourdes resembles a holy Blackpool!

And indeed it does. Lourdes is packed with God-themed tat, seedy bars and tourists. The town has the atmosphere of a bustling holiday resort, with salesmen touting holy souvenirs on the streets.

Got a life-threatening illness? Have some holy water in a Virgin Mary-shaped bottle. Need gifts for the family? A chocolate saint should do the trick. One of the most popular sweet shops is called the Immaculate Confection.

Tearing down the streets to evening mass, you can dash into bars and down shots of cheap tequila.

Yet there is the sincere element; going into the baths is one of the most intense experiences you’ll ever have. Kneeling in heart-stoppingly cold water to pray while two nuns hold your hands may leave you, inexplicably, in floods of tears.

The mix of tacky commercialism and a sense of spiritual fulfilment for its pilgrims is something you'll see nowhere else on earth.

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