The History of Belmont Abbey’s Grotto
Author: The Crusader Staff Writer, Katelyn Saxe
Belmont Abbey College is defined by our Catholic roots and by the Benedictine monks who reside here. These followers of Christ and students like you built this college. The basis of the Benedictine tradition is what built the guidelines for the college, and we are lucky to have a lot of rich history and old architecture on our campus—every brick of building like ‘St. Leo’s Hall and statues like ‘The Lady of Lourdes Grotto’’ were put together by the Benedictine Monastery. Funds for new buildings and additions to the school are completed with the help of alumni. One of the best places to admire the history and love behind Belmont Abbey College is at ‘The Lady of Lourdes Grotto.’ Maybe you walked past it and remembered stopping by it on a tour of the college your freshman year, but do you know its history?
‘Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto’ sits behind the monastery and just below the Holy Grounds Cafe. This structure was first built in 1891 after a significant leader of the school, Fr. Francis Meyer, contracted typhoid fever. He was not expected to live, but this did not stop the members of the school from calling out to God for his recovery. They declared that if he lived, they would build a Grotto for the Lady of Lourdes. This structure was built after Br. Meyer survived his illness and was designed by using materials easily found in the area. Wood and many large pieces of rock-like granite make up the base that surrounds the statue of Mother Mary and the crucifix of Jesus.
An article was written about the consecration of the Grotto (Theclio.com), and this is where I found most of my information. The Grotto was consecrated on May 7, 1891, on the Solemnity of the Ascension, amid a festive atmosphere. “A seventeen-piece brass band played as a procession of monks, clergy, and laity participated in the event. Abbot Leo Haid introduced Father Francis Meyer and recounted his illness and recovery. A fireworks show concluded the celebrations that evening,” They believed that this addition to the school would serve as a basis for their belief and dedication to God and His willingness to help His children.
Today the Grotto serves as a place for prayer and meditation among students and faculty. Tucked in the woods with a path or two that connects it to the rest of campus, it is a place of peace and tranquility. It is gated and has pews and kneelers for prayer and for admiration. The monastery uses this spot quite a bit for modified styles of worship and prayer. You may even see the sports teams meet here and conduct a group prayer or have a meeting tucked in the peaceful tree line of the Abbey.
This article was originally posted in the Fall 2022, Issue 1 of The Crusader Newspaper. Download the full issue.