This paper focuses on a three-year study of Swiss French-speaking pilgrimages to
Our Mother of Lourdes in southern France. We give special attention to the site of
the pilgrimage itself, seen as constituting an ensemble of spatiality set on scenery
so to establish and enable an alternative social order that we would qualify as "heterotopical"
in the continuity of Michel Foucault's and later on Kevin Hetherington's
use of the concept. We shall consider how such spaces are being worked out by institutional
and historical contingencies and especially how several urbanistic, scenic
and discursive devices perform in particular on pilgrims in order to incorporate
them into a «heterotopy» and make them act as if they were in an alternative social
order. This paper also seeks to recontextualize this «alternative social space» that
sets itself in contrast to a common world in which preachers and pilgrims figure as
secularized and therefore, from an emic point of view, dehumanized. In this way,
the Lourdes pilgrimage represents a case study of a militant time-space in which
Catholic ethics and exemplarity are exposed for the direct observation and experience
of the pilgrims.