Designed by the French architects, Jean-Paul Felix, Cyril Despre, Jean-Paul Guinard and Dominique Yvon, the church was built on the spot where Bernadette stood during the 18th and final apparition. It was inaugurated on 25 March 1988, the 130th anniversary of the apparitions by Monsignor Donze. It was his last blessing given as Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes for, after this ceremony, Monsignor Donze handed over his duties to Monsignor Sahuquet who thus became the new Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes.
The church is built in the shape of a semicircular amphitheatre and was designed with the specific intention of creating a friendly atmosphere. The vast area around the church, known as the Meadow, is used for open air masses and special events. For the Assumption, the Mass, attended each year by eighty thousand pilgrims from all over the world, is traditionally celebrated here. Nearby is the Adoration Tent where the Holy Sacrament is presented during the summer. On 15 August 1983, Pope John Paul II himself celebrated mass here before a crowd of three hundred thousand believers.