The Long Sought Original St. Mary's Grotto
Finding so many conclusive clues available to me among the priests still living, to confirm the crown story, gave me fresh impetus to go after more evidence of the earlier St. Mary's Grotto. I had expected it would be a path to pursue at another time, but no sooner said, then the unexpected happened once more, in the form of an 1880 Notre Dame Class Day Book.(128) Peter Lysy, knowing the archival records available, knew it might close, as did the Scholastics at that time, with the usual mention of St. Mary's Academy. While I was concluding the crown story, unbeknown to me, another important Grotto clue was about to be planted in my path.
Peter placed the open booklet on the counter in front of me and pointed to a heading GROTTO OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES. Pleased to see yet another mention of it, I happily asked how he'd found it. He responded with a phrase I've come to associate with him, "you've got to be creative." In his case, being steeped in the University archival materials, when knowledge and preparation meet opportunity, insight takes over.
They say: "Chance favors the prepared mind." To which a new Professor friend has added, "it also favors the active mind." In my own case, most of my efforts have come by way of intuition, following my instincts and stumbling upon information by blind luck or simple dogged determination not to leave a stone unturned. The web of information was enlarging. Peter always seemed several steps ahead of me in presenting material to aid my search, often coming up with the answers before I had stumbled upon them by accident or persistent effort. The single photograph of Sorin's original Grotto and this old 1880 Class Day Book were good examples. Being unfamiliar with the archives and the college routine, I would never have known such records existed.
In this case, two pages at the end of the Class Day Book under the heading of St. Mary's Academy began with:
After leaving the State road, leading from South Bend to Niles, for more than a quarter of a mile, maples, sycamore and poplars shade, and hedges of Osage orange and lilacs [many now gone] border the broad carriage drives and pleasant walks that lead to St. Mary's Academy . . . .
The description of the campus continues describing the grounds and buildings. Going from THE BUILDING (the old academy now known as Bertrand Hall) to the CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC and ST. LUKE'S STUDIO (art) attached to it and proceeding to the following brief description:
Passing the GROTTO OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES which separates the Academy from the Convent, we will mention attractive features belonging to the grounds, among which . . . .
It was a small mention, but enough further proof to fuel my energies in another direction. Where exactly was this Grotto, that had so impressed the aforementioned Mary Regina Jamison and was mentioned by the Scholastic as being one of only three in the country in the year 1877? Was Sorin, as Father Maguire alluded to earlier, somehow connected with this one too? It seemed worth a little time out in my Notre Dame Grotto research to satisfy my own curiosity. After all, in those days the St. Mary's campus was closely tied with Sorin and Notre Dame, the Sisters providing domestic help and the priests providing their spiritual needs.
I began by asking every elderly nun and those in the Convent Archives if they recalled any mention or archival evidence of this 1870s grotto? No one I approached, even Sister Judith, one of the oldest at 97, knew of any reference to it or any remembrances passed on by Sisters now deceased. One Sister, a St. Mary's historian, told me emphatically there was no Grotto at St. Mary's and never had been!
Statues in Lourdes Hall
Then Sister Raymunda, who had given me my first piece to the puzzle of the Grotto in the glen, mentioned that there was an Our Lady Statue in the Lourdes Hall if that might be of help. Shortly thereafter, I visited Sister Miriam Kathryn, the Sister who had supplied me with firsthand information about the 1937 Grotto with whom I had been regularly sharing my finds. As I entered her room, she said earnestly, "I was very close to calling you," Dorothy, " I think I know where the first Grotto at St. Mary's may have been." In thinking over our conversations, she had also recalled the statue in Lourdes Hall.
I had been studying the campus grounds trying to pinpoint the location of the Grotto somewhere between the academy and the former convent. Perhaps it had been dismantled to make room for a future building. Or it might have been between the buildings which were now all attached in a "U" formation. The center of the "U" being called the "teardrop" because it was where the Sisters said goodbye to one another upon being sent on missions to far away countries. It may also have been in the way of the full length porches which were added later to provide shelter in moving from building to building.
I had obtained from Peter copies of several maps of the Notre Dame Campus(129) which we had been using to check out the location of the first Notre Dame Grotto. They included drawings of the St. Mary's campus as well. On one, an 1878 St. Joseph County map, was an overall view of the land surrounding the campuses including the Notre Dame lakes and the St. Joseph River behind the St. Mary's Academy. The others, Sanborn maps(130) for 1885 and 1891, were insurance maps with detailed drawings of the campus buildings used for fire insurance purposes. Those Sisters I was able to share them with, their archives had none, were fascinated with them but they did not seem to jog any memories. Sister Miriam having seen these maps earlier now offered her conclusions.
"I have a feeling the Grotto may have been where Lourdes Hall is now, and that is why it was called Lourdes Hall. Perhaps it was dismantled and the statue of Our Lady was put at the top of the stairway landing of one of the floors." It sounded like we were on to something. Thinking I might get lost in the maze of hallways and corridors connecting the numerous buildings, she offered to take me there the next time I came. I told her I knew the buildings and hallways very well and if she'd just tell me approximately where the statue was I was sure I could find it.
Armed with her directions, upon leaving the convent for the day, I went in search of Lourdes Hall and its Our Lady statue and was surprised to find it easily. She had told me it was at the head of the third floor landing, in a quiet convent area of the building. The graceful polished twin stairway was made of gleaming red mahogany wood, the stair steps marked by the many footsteps of students and nuns in days gone by. As I followed the curve in the staircase, one leading to the north hallway and one to the south, I found myself gazing into an 6' x 12' hallway alcove facing the head of the grand staircase. To my surprise, I found not only a life-sized statue of Our Lady of Lourdes but also one of Bernadette facing her. Behind the pedestal on which her statue was placed was a narrow stained glass window with bits of purple color in it. I could not hold back the feeling that the statues as they were hadn't been there originally, but might have come from somewhere else. Someone had said that they thought the building had been called the long building and that when the statues were put there it was named Lourdes Hall.
All of this seemed to make sense. If the Grotto had to be destroyed, it would seem natural to remove the statues and relocate them. And possibly to soften its loss the building in which they were placed was named for them. I decided to see what else I might find about the statues in Lourdes Hall in the Scholastics at the University Archives while I awaited my appointment with a Convent Archivist, after the Christmas Holidays.
I set aside Monday of the holiday week, Christmas being on Friday, to pour over as many of the Scholastics during the period of the aforementioned Grotto and the building of Lourdes Hall as I could before the University Archives closed during the Christmas break. I knew the building now known as Lourdes Hall had been built in 1871-72. Its design borrowed from a sketch of the hospital where Mother Augusta had tended the wounded during the Civil War. Impressed with the building she had asked a wounded soldier she was caring for to do a sketch of it for her. The St. Mary's Sisters were well represented during the thick of the war.
I began my search for more information about it with the 1870 Scholastic. Then following an instinct, I switched to 1880, the year of the Class Day Book and decided to work backward instead. Since all the known indexes to the Scholastic hadn't revealed any information, paging through them seemed the only alternative. It was made a bit simpler by the fact that any writings about St. Mary's were at the end of each issue. It was tedious work. My eyes were tired and I was becoming weary of the task. Near the end of the September 1879 issue, I found this puzzling entry about the Grotto:
The Grotto of Lourdes has been replaced by a simple curtain alcove [obviously the one I saw at the head of the Lourdes Hall grand staircase]. The beautiful statue of Our Lady of Lourdes stands on an ornamented pillar, and the window back of the statue is shaded by purple hangings. The statue of Bernadette has been painted anew.
And following it:
In his late instruction, Very Rev. Father General said that Bernadette Soubirous was chosen to be the recipient of the great favors she enjoyed, because of her singular innocence. He said that the majesty of innocence had power to make strong men tremble. He mentioned a new French publication respecting this little peasant girl, and promised its early translation into English.
Bernadette was chosen because Mary is the Mother of him who came to be a sign of contradiction to expose the empty pretensions of pride and place to reverse the false values of the world, to manifest the mysteries of His Kingdom to little ones and hide them from the wise and the great.(131)
Obviously, Father Sorin had been involved with the Grotto of Lourdes at St. Mary's and knew it intimately in the years prior to the dedication of his own in August of 1878, the year before the St. Mary's Grotto was replaced. I had now found renewed evidence that there had been a Grotto and that it had been replaced -- and the statues moved to Lourdes Hall. But where it had been still remained a mystery I'd have to continue to pursue. I completed the 1879 and 1878 issues and decided to call it a day.
I found Peter pouring over an Atlas engraving of the St. Mary's campus as I was leaving. Not being familiar with the campus himself, he asked me to explain the layout. I joined him in his musings, both of us voicing the same wonderings. Could the Grotto have been inside? Possibly even in Lourdes Hall to begin with?
I remembered noticing a portion of the convent area being labeled classrooms on the Sanborn maps and Peter immediately went for them and we checked it out. All at once, it was evident that the 265 foot long building called Lourdes Hall was divided by the grand staircase with student classrooms on one side and the Sisters refectory, the chapel, and the convent area, on the other. We both recognized the significance of the wording in the Class Day Book at the same time: "Passing the Grotto of Lourdes which separates the academy from the convent." It all began to come together. I had been looking for an outside Grotto and it had been inside!
However, this still did not answer the question of how big it was and what it looked like originally that would warrant it being referred to as the "closest replica." Determined, for my own satisfaction, to pursue any leads I might find about it , I looked forward to my post holiday appointment with the Convent Archivist to share my findings with her and explore their records. I'd also pick up where I left off in the Scholastics on my next trip back to the University Archives, after the long holiday. Only this time, I'd be looking not only for Grotto references but also for information on the building of Lourdes Hall. To see if an indoor Grotto was mentioned and whether it was always called Lourdes Hall because of it.
Proof of the Original St. Mary's Grotto
I was enjoying my Tuesday morning at home preparing for and anticipating the rest of the week off before the holidays when I received an unexpected call from Peter Lysy at the Notre Dame University Archives. Something in our conversation, he told me, had prompted him to look up another source. He found a library index for the Scholastic, which was different then their own that indicated a full article on "Some of St. Mary's Shrines." He said the Grotto was mentioned in it and informed me: "I think it's what you may have been looking for and I have a copy of it waiting for you whenever you want to pick it up." Curious, I knew I couldn't wait almost two weeks to see it. When I picked it up and thanked him for it, he said he hadn't read it yet but felt it might be helpful.
When I arrived home and began reading it, I discovered it was a very complete detailed description of the Grotto itself. What a nice Christmas surprise. I rang the Archives and left a joyous message to pass on to Peter telling him it was just what I was hoping to find and that he had "made my day." As I hung up, I noticed the October 1877 date on the top of it, and smiled to myself, as I realized that had I stuck with the Scholastic through the next book I'd have happened upon it myself within 15 minutes of my leaving the archives.
While I was musing about the curious way this latest piece of information had come into my hands, I remembered a quote from one of the St. Mary's history books I had been reading. Sister Madeleva's, My First Seventy Years. Sister Madeleva's words fit like a glove the feeling I had when I received Peter's telephone message:
God has sent these friends to me, or me to them, in the needs which only they could meet. They are a part of the 'divine assistance' for which we ask earnestly at the end of every meal. I found just what I needed at the exact moment of my need. How did that happen? We asked for divine assistance and we got it.(132)
Following, in part, is that hoped for detailed description of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at St. Mary's. The Scholastic article begins with a note from the editor.
The following extract from a letter describing the shrines of St. Mary's was received at the Academy, and has been handed to us for publication:
As we left the Chapel the Sister said: 'We have another shrine, the perfect facsimile of Lourdes. It stands between the Convent and the Academy [same wording reversed in the CLASS DAY BOOK].' 'I shall be delighted to see it; for last week, at Sadlier's, in New York, I purchased a book, written by Henri Lasserre, giving a full description of the Grotto and its history.' 'Indeed!' replied the Sister; 'our Mother Superior met with the author four years ago  when at Lourdes.' 'Did she witness any of the wonderful miracles which take place so frequently?' I heard her speak of two to which she was an eye-witness. Mother and the Sister who accompanied her were kneeling in the Grotto one morning, when they heard an old lady say the words: 'Je vous salue, O Marie!' and the words were hesitatingly repeated after her by a child of eleven years who was born deaf and dumb, and these were the first words it had ever uttered; 'Je--vous--salue--O Marie!' it said distinctly. That morning the grandmother had bathed the child in the fountain, and put some of the water on the little one's tongue. The people who knew the woman and child intoned the Magnificat in thanksgiving. Another day a woman, twenty years of age, who had not walked for nine or ten years, after being bathed in the fountain, was instantly cured, and walked up the steep road to the Church of Lourdes, which is high above the rock, thousands of people following, to assist at a Mass of thanksgiving, all joining in the Magnificat, which is the custom to intone immediately after a miracle occurs. Our Mother Superior had ample opportunity to examine every part of the world-famed shrine, and ours is correct in every detail, not a crevice even missing. She had the good fortune also to meet at Paris the artist who had made the statue of the Blessed Virgin, which is according to the description given by Bernadette, and now marks the exact spot where the apparitions took place. She immediately ordered one exactly the same size as the one at Lourdes, and a life-like statue of Bernadette, to place in the facsimile she intended to erect, which is just one half the size of the original.
We had now ascended to a long corridor, which runs the whole length of the edifice, 250 feet in length, and opposite to the grand staircase, in a large alcove fronting, is the Grotto, to all appearance like a rock. From the descriptions I had read, I should have recognized it even if I had not been told what to expect. The entrance is in the shape of a crooked arch; the rock sloping back from the entrance becomes narrower on either side; above, to the right is a niche-like orifice; a wild rose springing from a fissure in the rock at its base; tangled brambles extending their roots into the crevices of the rocks. In the niche is the statue spoken of above. The long white robe falling in folds suffer her feet to appear, reposing on the rock; on each of them is a rose of bright golden hue; a girdle of blue, knotted in front, reaching almost to the feet, and a veil descending as far as the hem of her garment. A chaplet of white beads hang from her hands. Above her head is inscribed in golden letters: 'I am the Immaculate Conception.' (This was the answer given by the Apparition to Bernadette when she asked her name.) Kneeling at the base of the rock is a life-like statue of Bernadette in peasant costume; a dark worn dress, and white capulet which covers her head and falls behind; a kind of kerchief covers her shoulders, sabots on her feet. [This statue is now painted all white.] She looks towards the Virgin, her whole countenance expressive [as mentioned by Lasserre] 'of the majesty of innocence.' In one hand she holds her beads, in the other is usually placed a lighted candle, during novenas which are often asked by devout clients of our Lady, and a lamp is kept burning before the statue for special intentions. An altar is inside the arched Grotto, to represent the one at Lourdes. To the right of the altar, and nearer to the front, is a small receptacle to represent the fountain from which the miraculous water flows. A small iron railing is placed along the whole; on the outside is a stone ledge where all who pass kneel for an instant. I was so intent in examining this truthful and beautiful representation that I had not noticed the absence of one of the Sisters, until she came back and placed in my hand a small package, saying: 'Mother Superior begs you to accept, with her compliments, a few vials containing some of the water which she obtained herself from the fountain at Lourdes.' As we turned to leave, I noticed a box filled with little round bits of pasteboard, each having a number; above was a picture representing the Holy Souls in the flames of Purgatory; below was a tablet covered with names, and a number by each name. 'May I ask what devotion this is, Sister?' She picked up one of the numbers in the box, which I perceived had a partition, and placing it in the empty half, pointed her finger to the corresponding number on the tablet: 'You see, sir, this card contains the names of our members deceased, also deceased parents and relatives of the members of the Order, pupils and benefactors. As we pass the shrine we draw a number and, kneeling at Lourdes, say a short prayer for the soul of the person named. By this practice, every one of our dear dead is remembered many times through the day.' 'The design is something like the Tablets of Honor in the parlor,' said I; 'the same artist, perhaps?' She smiled, and replied: 'Our Sisters do all they can. One of them painted the Translation of the House of Loretto on the tabernacle-door; and many of those which decorate the church and elsewhere are the Sisters' work.'
As we reached the parlor, I remarked at a large painting of the Immaculate Conception. 'Is this also the work of one of your artist-Sisters?' 'Yes, it is her own design, based on the idea of the Blessed Virgin listening to the 'Definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.' Love and devotion to our Holy Mother prompted her to embody her thoughts on canvas. Our Mother Superior placed that little lamp before it as an ex-voto.' I had been so absorbed in the picture that the small light escaped my notice. 'A generous benefactor sent our Mother sixty of those small lamps from Lourdes,' she continued; 'they will be embedded in moss and placed on the ledges of rock just in front of the statue, where they will burn for twelve hours, or as many hours as desired, for the intentions of persons who ask favors of Our Lady of Lourdes.'
The letter tour continues to other shrines on campus describing how the beautiful St. Joseph River encircles St. Mary's giving it the appearance of an earthly paradise to strangers from the busy world. It ends with: "But before leaving, I asked and obtained permission of my kind hostess to visit them on my return from the West."(133)
The Chapel of Loretto
Among those shrines mentioned was the Chapel of Loretto, directly behind the present Church of Loretto at St. Mary's. It was completed in 1859. It has the distinction of being the first replica of a shrine built on either campus. It is a facsimile of the original "House of the Incarnation," (the room where, Gabriel, the angel of the Lord announced to Mary the birth of Jesus -- the Son of God), said to have been transported by angels to a shepherd's field in Italy. The model and plans were brought from Europe by Father Neal H. Gillespie, Mother Angela's brother.
He was among the first students who entered the University of Notre Dame. In June 1849 he received the degree of A.B. being the first graduate, in that course, of the University, who received the first degree from Notre Dame.
Father Gillespie died November 14, 1874, 16 years later. His body was laid out in the Chapel of Lorreto. He is said to be the only one accorded this privilege.
Of all the chapels about Notre Dame and St. Mary's, Loretto was his favorite, and it was fitting that when his soul had fled to heaven his body should be laid out in this sweet place. The blessed candles were interspersed here and there among the many beautiful hot house plants and by these candles alone was the little chapel lighted.(134)
The statue, which Mother Superior brought from Luxemburg, was placed in the Chapel of Loretto on September 28, 1878,(135) and is still there today. It honors Mary, the protectress of Luxemburg, the Mother who ever since the 16th century has given so many proofs of her watchful care over the city, guarding it from pestilence and the arms of enemies:
The Blessing of a statue of Our Lady of Consolation brought by Mother Superior about two years ago was the occasion of a very interesting ceremony in the convent chapel. Sorin presided assisted by Fathers Granger and Corby. Very Rev. Father Corby made a few remarks on the devotion to the Holy Mother of God, and the proper respect and relative honor due to all religious symbols, marking the great distinction between the adoration and veneration given respectively to God and the Blessed Virgin.(136)
With appropriate ceremony, a statue of Our Lady of Consolation was born on a tastefully decorated stand. A candlelight procession wound round the avenues and parterres near the academy and along the bank of the St. Joseph River.
Another small item of special interest on the same subject turned up while browsing through an old Ave Maria:
In the Chapel of Loretto, at St. Mary's Convent, Notre Dame, Ind., is suspended a star of pure silver, with the following inscription: 'Ave Maris Stella; Dec. 24th, 1875,' just above the head of the statue of the Blessed Virgin. Crowning her brow with its quiet radiance, it proclaims its touching history while arousing new confidence in the protection of the 'Gentle Star of the Ocean.' This beautiful and appropriate votive offering was made by Miss Eliza Allen Starr, on thanksgiving for her preservation through the dangers of her voyage to Europe. The date it bears is that of the landing in Havre of the steamship L'Amerique, after the memorable and disastrous breaking of her shaft in mid-ocean on the 21 of November, 1875. The perils of a disabled ship on the high seas, the tempests, the suspense, the starvation, the pestilence triumphed over, together with the prompt and miraculous discovery made by the gallant ship of rescue, the welcomed Ville de Brest, were providences most gratefully accorded to the intervention and loving patronage of 'Mary, Star of the Sea,' to whom the voyage was confided.(137)
The Blessed Virgin is called the 'Star of the Sea,' says St. Thomas, because sailors are guided to their port by the polar star as Christians are guided in the voyage to eternal glory by Mary.
Father Sorin was on this same ship. His miraculous rescue was depicted in a painting that was once in the Sacred Heart Church. A letter written by him aboard the steamer that rescued them, "Ville de Brest," was published in the Scholastic. The Ville de Brest was sent by the French Transatlantic Steamship Co. to cruise for the Amerique. They started looking for her on November 24, 1875 and sighted her on December 5th but because of rough seas were not able to get close enough to effect a rescue until a week later, on December 12. She was towed into Queenstown harbor and thence to Harve and arrived December 17, 1875. Sorin describes the rescue, in part:
The officers of this vessel deserve the highest praise for their noble and persevering efforts to save us. They suffered extremely in keeping themselves at a proper distance during the gale which lasted a whole week after our first meeting. . . . I saw the 'Ville de Brest' crossing us starboard, scarcely twenty feet from our bow, whence a single sea would have dashed her against us. . . . Five minutes later both steamers were tossing and rolling at a distance of half a mile from each other, which position remained the same for a full four days, the storm in the meantime continued with unabated violence [after the rescue]. The events which transpired on board will not be soon forgotten. Miss Starr had never before passed through such an ordeal. She went down bravely enough half the length of the rope ladder along the side of the big boat, but when she reached the lower boat I could see she was still alive by the sign of the cross she was making and repeating. Ah! She is a Christian woman.(138)
Eliza Starr was closely connected with both Notre Dame and St. Mary's. When her artist's studio in Chicago was destroyed during the Chicago fire, in 1871, she was invited to reside at St. Mary's as the head of their art department. She returned to Chicago in 1878 but still commuted to St. Mary's to teach. I found many of her stories and poems in the early Scholastic and Ave Maria magazines in the stacks at the Hesburgh Library. In later years, she received the Laetare medal for her many artistic contributions.
A visit to the Chapel of Loretto revealed that the silver star was no longer there. However, several items of hers are displayed in the Heritage Room in the convent museum in Bertrand Hall. Among them, her rosary, and a beautiful egg-sized cameo of the Blessed Virgin given to her by the Pope. The Laetare Medal was conferred by the University of Notre Dame, Laetare Sunday 1885, upon Elizabeth Allen Starr, the first woman to receive it. Mother Cabrini presented Miss Starr's books to the pope and confided to her the presentation of the medallion of Mary Immaculate, a gift of Pope Leo XIII on January 31, 1900, in appreciation of her published work and studies in art.
In 1881, Eliza Starr wrote a lovely poem about the University entitled:
Notre Dame as Seen from the Saint Joseph River
The purple air, the misty hills;
The letter tour concluded with the mention of the summerhouse, The Pavilion of Mt. Carmel, overlooking the river "mid most delightful surroundings." It was also called "The Chinese Umbrella." A memory of it still exists in the form of a Gazebo south of the church.
Once again I referred to Father Maguire's letter of correction:
So here is the story: Father Sorin may have expressed a wish for a grotto and he may have made one somewhere on the grounds but I never saw it or heard of it. If he did construct one he probably built it on the grounds of the Sisters.
In this case, Father Maguire's assumption was incorrect. However, his mention of it had prompted me to keep digging until I found the existence of three earlier Lourdes Grottoes hidden away in the past: St. Mary's 1874 Grotto, Sorin's 1878 Grotto and the Sisters' 1937 Grotto in the Glen. This additional long forgotten historical information about Notre Dame and St. Mary's might never have been rediscovered without Father Maguire's letter.