Sanctuary of Lourdes

ProjectSanctuary of LourdesLocationLourdes, FranceInstallerACE Event GroupSubmitted byArbane Groupe

Lourdes is one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, covering 53 hectares and 22 places of worship, drawing in six million pilgrims from around the world every year.

After three decades of service, the outdoor audio system found itself showing the signs of its journey after weathering extreme temperatures (-10°C winters and +40°C summers), humidity and daily operation.

Inside the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, built between 1883 and 1889 and capable of accommodating 1,500 worshippers on a surface area of 2,000 m², the ageing sound system was lacking intelligibility and needed to be changed.

Audiomaster Technologie was given a brief to improve intelligibility and diffusion inside the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and to upgrade the outdated sound system outside.

Outside, where the acoustics can be compared to a classical music venue, the end user wanted to give the people walking down the main street a more immersive and smooth sound experience, hence a decision was made to have no delay and install the loudspeakers facing each other to deliver the same sound everywhere at the same time.

Inside, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary the sound system needed to be reliable, completely automated and digitalised as much as possible. The install needed to improve the visitors experience and not be seen by the pilgrims.

The basilica has no stained glass windows, but impressive mosaics covering over 2000m², and the sound system had to be capable of ensuring perfect intelligibility but also respect the architecture, especially the decorations and mosaics.

After multiple tests, trials and comparisons between a variety of manufactures, Audiomaster Technologie turned to Active Audio column speakers that were able to cover the entire basilica, which can hold up to 1,500 worshippers, with six column loud-speakers.

The Sanctuary of Lourdes’ Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary needed to revamp its exterior and interior sound system to reach better STI and intelligibility due to receiving complaints from worshippers visiting the site.

The equipment had to be chosen with care to meet the challenges of Lourde’s architecture and installed with attention to minimise disruptions to worshippers as much as possible. The Sanctuary has a duty to provide a warm welcome to the worshippers, and that includes good acoustics.

To achieve the aesthetics and high quality sound requirements inside the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Audiomaster Technologie installed four Active Audio StepArray 180P (1.8m long) column speakers and two StepArray 205P (2.5m).

Two StepArray 250P column speakers are located at altar level to offer sufficient directivity control while respecting the layout constraints; two StepArray 180P are located in the 30m long nave behind the area occupied by the dome to cover a more favourable acoustic environment; and two installed for the transepts to provide control and directivity while limiting reflections on the curved walls of the chapels.

The central dome, up to 24m in height, requires perfect directivity control to avoid the focusing and echo effects that impair speech intelligibility. The entire structure of the basilica, the presence of multiple smooth surfaces and the rounded shape of the chapels at the ends of the transepts means that the echo is considerable. The presence of numerous decorations and limited number of pillars in the basilica meant that the number of loudspeakers had to be kept to a minimum.

All speakers are powered by Active Audio MPA82000 amplifiers and a NUT audio processor, while a Powersoft Mezzo 322A amplifier is used for speaker monitoring. A Xilica Solaro processor handles the delay and equalisation setting and Allen & health SQ5 console accompanied by a Dante card manages the live broadcast.

The entire system provides clear, intelligible speech throughout the listening area despite the very complex acoustic challenges.

This award entry celebrates the transformation of the Sanctuary of Lourdes, an iconic pilgrimage site, enriching the spiritual journey of worshippers, many of whom spend years to save money to visit the destination.

With a commitment to respect the site’s heritage, the installation not only managed to elevate the audio experience for pilgrims and visitors but also succeeded to preserve the sanctity of Lourde’s architectural design while considering the pilgrims throughout the installation process.

The AV technology subtly integrates in the architecture and enhances the journey of millions of visitors to this sacred site and stands as the convergence of technology, spirituality and architecture, at the Sanctuary of Lourdes.

Vincent Fernandez, head of the audiovisual department, Sanctuary of Lourdes says: “Good acoustics can help with prayer. Visitors go there to attend mass, meditate and pray, and if the sound is not good, the worshippers will not be able to listen properly and therefore be disturbed.”