Cave of Candles
Its History, Legends and Lore / by Dorothy V. Corson

Photo by Greg Corson

The Indian Legend
The legend attributed to the Legendary Sycamore on the Grotto Lawn. The oldest, most photographed tree on campus, is discussed in A Cave of Candles in Chapter 20, Chapter 21, and Chapter 22.

The Story Behind the Oldest Photograph of the Notre Dame Grotto
Two 1896 photographs of the Grotto come to light just in time for the Grotto’s 100th Anniversary. The story is told in the Introduction to A Cave of Candles.

Heavenly Light
The story behind the discovery of this “Rainbow over the Grotto” photograph which appears at the end of A Cave of Candles in Chapter 26.

Christmas Eve at the Grotto
The story behind this lost photograph of the Nativity Scene at the Grotto which surfaced again in a most unusual way. This photograph joins the “Heavenly Light” photograph at the end of A Cave of Candles in Chapter 26.

Stadium Stories: From the House that Rockne Built
Four stories associated with the first Notre Dame Stadium: A once in a lifetime thrill for two lucky people; a miniature parachute bread drop; and a 1930 picture of the stadium under construction that makes everyone smile.

Ashes at the Newly Renovated Notre Dame Stadium
In case you’re keeping score, the new official capacity of Notre Dame Stadium is 80,225. Not counting Louie Kubiak who must be smiling in football heaven right now.

A Diagram and Dimensions of the Notre Dame Grotto
This 1957 plan of the Notre Dame Grotto, often requested but never found, unexpectedly, resurfaced 43 years later.

An Archival Treasure -- German Missionary’s Diary Describes Michiana in 1840s
While staying at the Log Chapel at St. Mary of the Lake, he visits South Bend. He details the life of a fur trader in St. Joseph Valley and tells of his walk to Bertrand, MI and the hard times the settlers had there before Sorin’s arrival in 1842.

The Mystery of Sister Paraclita’s Album of Artwork
The story behind how the artwork and paintings of this Native American Holy Cross Sister wound up in a dusty corner of a cluttered garage antique shop in Edwardsburg, Michigan.

Frederick Snite: “The Man in the Iron Lung” a Legend at Notre Dame
Dubbed “The 5th Horseman,” his special trailer in which he traveled throughout the nation was a familiar sight at the north ramp of the Notre Dame stadium at home games.

A Poet Linked to the Grotto: Joyce Kilmer -- Author of “Trees”
Joyce Kilmer’s friendship with President Rev. Charles O’Donnell, Poet Laureate of Indiana and Mother Madeleva, also a poet, is discussed in A Cave of Candles in Chapter 23. Both corresponded with Kilmer’s wife after he was killed in WW I.

Dr. Tom Dooley’s Letter at the Grotto
His photograph and his last letter to Father Hesburgh relates his fond memories of the Grotto.

Rev. Julius Nieuwland Famed Notre Dame Chemist and Botanist
The story behind the handgun and rifle Father Nieuwland used to shoot down leaves from the trees during specimen-collecting trips. Also, the humorous poem and note he wrote on birchbark to Pres. Fr. John W. Cavanaugh on one his field trips.

Why “The Fighting Irish?”
Rev. Charles Carey’s 1953 essay was written for one of Fr. O’hara’s Religious Bulletins. The sychronicity of how the essay, and the identity of the author, were discovered via serendipity.

Unsolved Mystery Surrounds Rockne’s Ill-Fated Plane Trip to California
Strange story, of extraordinary circumstances associated with Rockne’s tragic plane crash, invites speculation more than seventy years after his untimely death.

Rockne's Legendary Legacy Lives On
More Untold Stories Related to Rockne's Ill-fated Plane Trip — Part II

The Missing Empress Eugenie Crown
The Forgotten Empress Eugenie Crown is documented in A Cave of Candles in Chapter 12, and Chapter 12a. Its disappearance was paradoxical in that many people saw it during the years it was lost.

General Sherman’s Family Ties to Notre Dame and St. Mary’s
Ellen Ewing Sherman, the wife of General William Tecumseh Sherman, and Mother Angela’s family, the Gillespies, were related. Members of all three families went to both schools. Their family ties to both campuses are detailed in A Cave of Candles in Chapter 15.

A Gem of a Story: The Fate of a Little Four-year-old Girl Stolen by the Indians
After her capture, Frances Slocum, was adopted and raised by the family of a Delaware Indian Chief to take the place of their dead daughter. The strange story of how she was located in her sixties, living a among the Indians, is told in A Cave of Candles in Chapter15a.

Memorabilia in an Old Attic Reveals Forgotten Lore of Notre Dame
Four Notre Dame students walk to Chicago in 1914 to see Notre Dame play the Carlisle Indians. The story of one of those sons of Notre Dame who was a member of that adventuresome foursome.

Notre Dame’s Log Chapel: A Sacred Place filled with Sacred Memories
The Log Chapel reburials and a German Missionary’s diary describing the Indian Chapel and its surroundings in 1840, before Sorin’s arrival. A newborn Indian baby is baptized in St. Mary’s Lake.

Joseph P. Flynn’s Art Deco Paintings
Photographs that inspired these 1917 Art Deco paintings of the campus in The Dome turn up 80 years later. The story behind the paintings and photographs is told in A Cave of Candles in Chapter 3.

The Serpent and the Crescent Moon at Mary’s Feet
Close-up photographs and the significance of the motifs at the base of Mary’s statue on the Golden Dome at the University of Notre Dame du Lac are discussed in A Cave of Candles in Chapter 5.

Notre Dame’s School Colors and Coat of Arms
Mary’s Queenly colors, Gold and Blue, are also Kingly colors. Father Edward Sorin, founder of Notre Dame and St. Edward’s University, held King Edward, St. Edward the Confessor, as his patron saint. Gold and blue, the royal colors of the king, are the colors held dear by the two educational institutions.

That Unconquerable Spirit
A tribute to my brother's adventuresome life. He enlisted in the Army and was sent to Alaska. When he returned to Indiana he spent twenty years fulfilling his dream to build an Alaskan Homestead in a six acre woods on Sorin land a mile north of Notre Dame. This is his story. Update 8/3/10: Bill's sons have just fulfilled their dad's final request that his ashes be scattered at Lake Solitude. Their summer adventure is detailed in a postscript added at the end of this story (here).

The Keystone
A replica of the Notre Dame Grotto is built at St. Stanislaus Church in South Bend, Indiana in 1962. The “Always Have a Dream” story related to its construction inspires, A Cave of Candles: The Story Behind the Notre Dame Grotto.

The next five stories are the Authors Personal Epilogue

Father Sorin and the Holy Man of Tours and an “Angel at the Grotto”
Fr. Sorin and Henry Lasserre, Bernadette’s official historian, receive help from Monsieur Dupont, the Holy Man of Tours. In Miracles at Lourdes, Henry Lasserre pens a “Dear Reader” letter reflecting upon the part “Our Angel Guardian” plays in the various circumstances of our lives.

Rudy’s Never Give up Philosophy
An interesting connection between Rudy and Father John Cavanaugh who is depicted in his movie Rudy. Plus photographs taken at the premiere party in the Hesburgh Library penthouse.

Dooley and the House with Three Flags
The fulfillment of the lifelong dream of an alumnus, to live in a home close to Notre Dame.

The Story Behind this Unique Image of Notre Dame's Lourdes Grotto
The Notre Dame alumnus who created it, and the mission it is still accomplishing, in the years since it first appeared on a poster on a tree near the Grotto, in the month of May, 1995.

Author’s Own Grotto Story
A visit to the Grotto in 1964 and again in 1980, and the date of a Wedding Anniversary foretell author’s future mission to research the story behind the Notre Dame Grotto.

Note To The Reader

The last five episodes, above, represent highlights from my Grotto research. The serendipity stories I happened upon by chance when I was looking for something else. They became the “Author’s Personal Epilogue” listed at the end of “A Cave of Candles” which, in turn, inspired more stories and ultimately led to the creation of “The Spirit of Notre Dame: Its History, Legends and Lore.”

Nearing the end of my archival adventure, I find myself wondering if the real story I’ve been writing is the history of the Grotto or is it those stories within that story. The wonder of chance encounters and answered prayers, that came when they were least expected, that have kept me on that trail of memories until there were no more clues to follow. It was this sentence in an email response from a reader in New York City, sent some time ago, that first prompted these wonderings: “Is your story the history of the Grotto or the magic ... hidden hands ... that show up when something is a real labor of love?”

I’ve been pondering that one single sentence throughout the preparation of these last Legends and Lore stories. At first “magic” didn’t seem the right word to describe those “otherworldly” experiences I have encountered throughout my research. Then I found this dictionary definition of magic: “A mysterious quality of enchantment.” Which defined, exactly, the delight and heightened awareness I have experienced whenever “help from above” has been there when I needed it the most. So too, the definition of a labor of love: “any work done with eager willingness, either from fondness for the work itself or from affection for the person for whom it is done” which also fits, so well, those loving creative impulses that have a way of setting those wonder-working moments in motion.

My email friend’s name is Joyce, but I think of her as Joy because she has brought joy into my life and “Joy is a sign of God’s Presence.” She was there when I needed someone just like her. Her joy-filled electronic presence and the warmth and spontaneity of her “gift of words” has inspirited the completion of these Legends and Lore Web pages.

Dorothy V. Corson
Easter Sunday
April 20, 2003

My heartfelt appreciation goes out to all those ANGELS UNAWARE, whose Heaven-sent help and encouragement throughout my odyssey of discovery, have made “The Spirit of Notre Dame: Its History, Legends and Lore” a reality.


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© Copyright 2001 by Dorothy V. Corson.
All rights reserved.