Built in 1896 by the newphew of St. Bernadette, Jean-Marie Soubirous and his wife, Benoîte Toulet, the iconic Grand Hotel Moderne welcomed visiting aristocracy and dignitaries in elegance and comfort at the heart of Lourdes life.
Since the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette in 1858, the city of Lourdes began to slowly transform into a city that was capable of welcoming the millions of pilgrims who visited Lourdes every year. Construction of the city began with the cleaning up of the Grotto of Massabielle, the building of churches, the opening up of the Esplanade, the construction of the assembly hall, the building of hotels and guest houses, the widening of streets and the installation of a more modern sewerage system.
Inspired by the desire to build “the most beautiful hotel in the city,” Jean-Marie Soubirous and Benoîte Toulet and commissioned the most prestigious architect that that time, Jean-Marie Lacrampe to build The Grand Hotel Moderne.
The architect behind Grand Hotel Moderne, was also the same architect who built the magnificent ramps at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the town hall, the castle of Soum, St Joseph’s School, the school of Auzon Honoré, as well as his own private villa - all within the city of Lourdes. Jean-Marie Lacrampe was known as “the city’s architect” and director of the local school of design and stonecutting.
Grand Hotel Moderne was inspired by classical French Baroque architecture similar to the great chateaus built under King Louis XVI’s reign. The building features curved and sculpted walls, elegantly stone-carved balconies, vibrant colors, and the positioning of tall windows and high ceilings for grand rooms filled with natural lighting.
One of the highlights of Grand Hotel Moderne is the beauty of the stone carvings adorning the bold contrasting walls. This imposing facade is covered with delicately carved motifs of flora and fauna, angels and lions. A relief panel with an ornately carved “HM” for “Hotel Moderne” becomes the emblem of the hotel today.
The stone that makes up the beautiful carved stonework on the Grand Hotel Moderne, is said to have come from the quarries of Lourdes. The quality of materials as well as the craftsmanship was guaranteed under the watchful eyes of Jean-Marie Lacrampe. The architect was so well-recognized for his skills that in 1880 under the insistence of the City Council and the inspection of the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he also opened a school of design and stonecutting.
Baroque architecture in France also placed a heavy emphasis on the decoration of interiors, the elegance of which can still be seen in Grand Hotel Moderne today.
Upon entering the Grand Hotel Moderne, one is transported back into the glamour of the 19th century “La Belle Époque” (considered “The Golden Age,” a period in European social history that began during the late 19th century and lasted until World War I). With its rich wood panelling, ornately decorated ceiling, and colorful mosaic floors, the Grand Hotel Moderne retains the grandeur, charm and elegance of its past.
The founders commissioned Louis Majorelle (1859 -1926) for the interior design of the hotel. He was one of the most renowned French decorators and designers of furniture in Art Nouveau style. The son of a cabinetmaker, Majorelle was trained as a painter and went in 1877 to the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied under Jean-Francois Millet.
A centerpiece of Grand Hotel Moderne’s interior is the splendor and style of the “Restaurant Majorelle,” aptly named after its designer. A warm, intimate ambiance is created by rich wood panelling, intricate wood floor patterns and embellishments inspired by nature: stems of plants, waterlily leaves and tendrils, as seen in our restaurant. Striking marble columns stand tall throughout the restaurant which provides contrast and sophistication. Elegant furnishings include antique handmade wooden chairs, gilded tables and rich fabrics in the style of Louis XVI.
Majorelle favored the use of exotic and strongly grained woods, such as mahogany, and this can also be seen in the majestic stairwell in the Grand Hotel Moderne. Through contrasting wood patterns spiraling through the grand staircase, he has carved a masterpiece of the 19th century.
Antiques such as 19th century hand-crafted cabinetry, porcelain, silverware and lithographs are also featured throughout the hotel.
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At the time of its opening in 1896 the Grand Hotel Moderne provided the latest in elegance and comfort, offering private bathrooms with hot water, lifts to each floor, and telephones in private booths - one of the first hotels in the south west of France to do so. It instantly lived up to its name of being “Moderne” and became synonymous with one of the most sophisticated and beautiful hotels of its time.
Today the Grand Hotel Moderne continues these traditions. With a complete renovation throughout the hotel in 2008, Grand Hotel Moderne continues to provide the latest in elegance and comfort to modern day travelers, whilst retaining the charm and splendor of its historic past.