Cave of Candles
Notre Dame's Grotto / by Dorothy V. Corson

Notre Dame Chronological Chart

1685 -- St. Joseph Mission founded. First Catholic Mission established in northern Indiana by the early Jesuit missionaries. Abandoned in 1759, when the English defeated the French.

1800 -- Legendary Sycamore takes root sometime between 1775 and 1825.

1821 -- Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi Indians sign Treaty of Chicago in 1821 ceding their rights to the Northeast quarter of land in St. Joseph County including South Bend, Mishawaka, Notre Dame and St. Mary's.

1830 -- St. Joseph Mission reorganized by Rev. Theodore Badin, first priest ordained in the United States.

1831 -- State of Indiana allocates a strip of land, 100 feet wide, plus one section (1 mile square) of good land contiguous to it for each mile of the same for a road. Sections, or the procceds thereof to be applied to the road. The road was opened at the end of 1832. The first public land sales were made late that same year.

1832 -- Father Badin buys 524 acres in St. Joseph County from the Commissioner of Roads and establishes the first orphan home and school for Indians in Indiana. The first church at Notre Dame, a log chapel, known as the 'Indian Chapel,' was erected on this land by Badin.

1833 -- The "Asylum" was not approved until February 2, 1833 because a cabin was not built at Notre Dame. Two Sisters went to Pokagon Village for the winter of 1833-34. When a cabin and farmhouse were built the Sisters came to Notre Dame for the short-lived orphanage and school. It did not function for more than a year.

1835 -- Father Badin leaves, conveys title to land, now known as Notre Dame, to Bishop Brute. Reverts to mission, Deseille and Petit replace Badin.

1838 -- Most of local Potawatomi Indians removed by the military in 1838. Father Petit accompanies them on their forced march to Kansas. Dies on his way back.

1842 -- Father Edward Sorin and six Brothers arrive. As many as two hundred Indians still in the area. Sorin changes the name of the mission, formerly known as Ste Marie des Lacs, to Notre Dame du Lac. His first act of devotion to Our Lady on the site of the future University.

1843 -- Corner-stone of main college building (now called the Old College) is laid. Many Indians assist in erecting the edifice.

1844 -- First chapel on St. Mary's Island, in St. Mary's Lake, also dedicated to Our Lady of the Lake. Visitors paddle to the chapel in canoes from the shore of the lake. A charter for the college was granted to the University by the Indiana legislature on January 15, 1844.

1848 -- Construction begins on first church at Notre Dame to be named Sacred Heart of Jesus. 1854 -- Pope Pius IX, proclaims dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Five months later the Academy of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, which later became known as St. Mary's, is established.

1857 -- Father Moreau, founder of the Holy Cross order, arrives from France. Visits St. Mary's. Dedicates St. Angela's Island and blesses its altar and statue of Mary. In later years it is referred to as the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes on the island.

1858 -- Bernadette, a French peasant girl, sees her first apparition on February 11 at the Lourdes Grotto.

1859 -- Chapel of Loretto, facsimile of the original "House of the Incarnation," completed at St. Mary's. It is still there today.

1861 -- Replica of Portiuncula Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels at Assisi erected on the "island" at Notre Dame. Throngs of pilgrims visit it to gain plenary indulgences. First replica of a shrine placed at University by Sorin to encourage pilgrimages.

1863 -- General Sherman's children attend Notre Dame and St. Mary's during the war years. Mrs. Sherman lives in South Bend while her children are in school.

1865 -- Ave Maria, a national magazine to promote devotion to Our Lady, is launched by Father Sorin, in collaboration with the Sisters of the Holy Cross

1866 -- Napoleon, Emperor of France gives gifts of gold to Notre Dame to commemorate the completion of the first main building. Among them, a valuable crown, gift of Empress Eugenie.

1867 -- Sometime around 1866 or 1867, Mother Angela receives permission from Father Sorin and the Bishop to establish the seat of the Association of Our Lady of Sacred Heart at Saint Mary's and collect funds for their proposed church to be named Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

1869 -- A decision is made to build a new church at Notre Dame. Father Sorin gives the task to Father Alexis Granger. Father Granger proposes "seat" of the Association be transferred from St. Mary's to Notre Dame and their new church be named Our Lady of Sacred Heart suggesting Notre Dame would be better able to handle the needs of large pilgrimages to Our Lady. Mother Angela, upon Father Sorin's request complies, turns over name and funds to Father Granger and puts off the building St. Mary's church upon the assurance of Father Sorin's help in building it later. Through the Association of Our Lady of Sacred Heart ,which was publicized in the Ave Maria magazine, funds to build the church were very effectively solicited.

1871-1872 -- St. Mary's builds an addition later named Lourdes Hall. A temporary chapel is built on the top floor.

1872 -- Lourdes water with its history of healing is introduced to the United States and cures are publicized in the Ave Maria. From the time the first water arrives at Notre Dame until the new church is finished, contributions from grateful users of Lourdes water are used to finance Notre Dame's Our Lady of Sacred Heart Church.

1873 -- Father Sorin and Mother Angela make separate pilgrimages to Lourdes. Mother Angela ships to St. Mary's, authentic replicas of Our Lady and Bernadette statues at Lourdes. Father Sorin also sends a Lourdes statue of Our Lady to the Minims for their study hall at Notre Dame.

1874 -- Mother Angela builds a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in the new addition at St. Mary's, installs the Our Lady and Bernadette statues, and the new addition becomes Lourdes Hall. Sorin presides over many special occasions there.

About this same time, Father Lemonnier, Sorin's nephew and then President of Notre Dame, dies. Sorin honor's his deathbed wish by promising to make the chapel in the north end of the sanctuary, the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes. Donations arrive continuously for this purpose, however, the chapels are not completed for another 12 years.

1875 -- Replica of the beautiful sanctuary lamp at Lourdes is placed in the Sacred Heart Church.

The steamer, L'Amerique bound for France, with Father Sorin and Eliza Starr, St. Mary's art teacher, on board, breaks its shaft and is stranded in mid ocean. Daring rescue is accomplished.

1878 -- Sorin dedicates the first Lourdes Grotto (described as a tower-like niche) at Notre Dame. Visitors to the campus add it to their pilgrimages.

1879 -- Notre Dame's second main building is destroyed by fire. Debris is dumped behind the presbytery, the future site of the present Grotto.

St. Mary's indoor Lourdes Grotto, said to be the closest replica in U.S., is removed. Only the Lourdes statues remain in a small alcove on the same floor.

1883 -- Dome is completed. A month later the statue of Our Lady is hoisted to the top.

1884 -- Crown and crescent are added to Our Lady's statue and illuminated.

1886 -- Statue and Dome are gilded in gold. Less than a month later two valuable crowns are stolen from the Sacred Heart Church. Empress Eugenie's crown is hidden away for safekeeping.

1888 -- Gregori's Grotto painting of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes, behind the Lourdes altar in the Sacred Heart Church, is completed.

1889 -- The Our Lady Chapel, which was to have been Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel, a memorial to Lemonnier, is complete with the arrival of its Madonna statue.

1893 -- Father Edward Sorin dies. Upon his death, his devotion to the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is passed on to Father William Corby former Notre Dame president.

1896 -- Father Corby decides to build a more authentic replica of the grotto at Lourdes after a favor granted at Lourdes, France. He proposes his idea to Father Thomas Carroll, a former Holy Cross Priest, known for his generous gifts to worthy causes. Father Carroll pays all of it.

1898 -- The Notre Dame Grotto becomes so popular that the Chapel of Portiuncula, which is badly in need of repair, is torn down and other shrines are removed.

1917 -- "The Legend of the Sycamore" is passed on to history Professor, William E. Farrell by Brother Frederick Kraling, who urges him to record it for future generations.

1918 -- Joyce Kilmer, author of "Trees," is killed in the first World War. His friendship with Poet Laureate, Notre Dame President Charles O'Donnell; his love of Our Lady, the Grotto, and the trees on campus, link his memory and his poem to the Notre Dame Grotto.

1937 -- Fred Snite, a Notre Dame graduate, returns to the United States in an iron lung, a victim of infantile paralysis in China. His appearance in his iron lung, via a special trailer, at all home football games and his devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, also ties his memory to the Notre Dame Grotto.

1939 -- The first small stone relic from Lourdes, brought back from France by Father DeGroote is cemented in the Grotto.

1940 -- Eugene O'Neill's stage play, Long Day's Journey Into Night unearths evidence of St. Mary's long forgotten St. Angela's Island and its Our Lady of Lourdes shrine.

1947 -- Author's autographed movie script of The Song Of Bernadette, written by acclaimed Hollywood writer and director, George Seaton, is presented to St. Mary's College.

1958 -- Notre Dame commemorates the 100th Centennial of the Lourdes Grotto in France in a year long celebration. A second larger black stone, also a relic from Lourdes, is brought from France by Father Maguire and cemented in the Notre Dame Grotto

1961 -- Notre Dame graduate, Dr. Tom Dooley, humanitarian, and "jungle doctor of the Laos," dies January 18, 1961, at age of 34. Upon his death, a replica of his last letter to Father Hesburgh, praising the Grotto, is placed at the kneeling rail. Its presence inspires renewed devotion to Our Lady.

1962 -- St. Stan's Grotto, a replica of the one at Notre Dame, built at St. Stanislaus Church in South Bend, is erected by Father Jankowski for his parish of 22 years.

1985 -- Notre Dame Grotto is badly damaged by a fire caused by the burning of too many candles during a football game.

1993 -- Movie, Rudy, depicting the Grotto is premiered in South Bend. The first movie about Notre Dame to be premiered in South Bend since Knute Rockne All American.

1996 -- Notre Dame Grotto celebrates its 100th Anniversary and earns Father Hesburgh's own personal accolade: "I've been to shrines dedicated to Our Lady all over the world. Mary may visit them but she lives here."

Compiled for "A Cave of Candles: The Story Behind the Notre Dame Grotto" by Dorothy Corson

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