Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Grotto of Maria Lourdes

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Institution Name: Belmont Abbey College
Original/Historic Place Name: Grotto of Maria Lourdes
Location on Campus: behind and to the side of Monastery
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1891original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Landscape site
Type of landscape–
Small-scale features:
There are several benches and kneelers located at this site.
Large-scale features:
Grotto modeled after the cove at Lourdes; contains a painted terra-cotta statue of the Virgin of Lourdes, 5’ 9; a modest belvedere to the south side contains a statue of Saint Walburga, of terra-cotta with accoutrements of complementary materials; there is also trail marking Stations of the Cross, with path and bridge of faux bricks, and a gazebo.
Other characteristics:
Materials: terra-cotta statues, stone, marble base to statue
1891-present (2007)outdoor space
1891-present (2007)memorial site (a pilgrimage shrine)

Significance: architecture, culture, history, religion
Landmark designation:
National RegisterBelmont Abbey Historic District (1993)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

In 1890, one of the young monks at Belmont Abbey contracted typhoid fever. This priest, Father Francis Meyer, O.S.B., neared death as his physicians despaired of a cure. The Monastery's Abbot, Leo Haid, was distraught at the infirmity, and the Prior, Father Felix Hintemeyer, organized daily prayers for Meyer's recovery.

Hintemeyer determined that the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her role as patroness of the Abbey, should be sought. In conjunction with his prayers, Father Felix resolved that, should Francis Meyer's health return, a Grotto would be built in honor of Our Lady. This would be an act of thanksgiving and of witness to the monks' confidence in the vitality of prayer.

The recovery of Father Francis was as prompt as it was inspiring. Construction of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes began the next spring. As a special privilege granted by the Holy See, the liturgical feasts of both Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Walburga have special status in the Abbey. In 1953, the Grotto was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Belmont Abbey Historic District. The statues of Our Lady and Saint Walburga were restored that same year. Subsequently, a trail marked by the Stations of the Cross was added. The area was further enhanced by a path and bridge of faux bricks, and by a gazebo dedicated in honor of the seventh abbot of Belmont, Oscar C. Burnett, O.S.B.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Alexander, Frances P., and Richard L. Mattson. Belmont Abbey Historic District [including Belmont Abbey College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1993.

Abbey Basilica of Maryhelp. Brochure. Belmont, NC: Southern Benedictine Society of North Carolina, 1999.

Baumstein, Paschal. The Legacy of Felix Hintemeyer. Booklet. Belmont, NC: Goodwill Publishers, 2000.

Baumstein, Paschal, Beth Bargar, and Debra G. Estes. A Walking Tour of Historic Belmont Abbey. Booklet. Belmont, NC: Belmont Abbey College, 1997.

The Grotto and Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. Brochure. Belmont, NC: Southern Benedictine Soceity of North Carolina, 2001.

Hamilton, Boniface. "Deepening Union: A Benedictine Commitment." Typescript. St. Joseph, MN: American Benedictine Academy, [2002?].

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections
Government Offices
Other: Archives, Belmont Abbey College

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