Join devotees at a replica of a sacred French cave, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared before St. Bernadette Soubirous.
The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is a sacred shrine located on the University of Notre Dame campus. Students, alumni, professors and local residents all visit the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to pray, light candles and enjoy its serene atmosphere.
The shrine has been an important part of the university campus since it was unveiled in 1896. It is a scale version of the Grotto of Massabielle, in Lourdes, France, where St. Bernadette is said to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858. Reverend Edward Sorin, the University of Notre Dame’s founder, made plans for the grotto after visiting the original during trips to his homeland. Its construction was funded by a theology alumni.
Stones from nearby farms were used to build the cave. Standing in a niche to the upper right-hand side is a statue of the Virgin Mary. Below it is a piece of rock excavated from the original cave in Lourdes. A kneeling statue of St. Bernadette looks up at the Virgin from the grotto’s floor.
Sit on one of the benches in front of the shrine and watch as the spiritual activity unfolds. Devotees kneel at the prayer benches and light candles to give thanks and ask for blessings. Open-air masses take place regularly and there’s a daily rosary prayer service, regardless of the weather.
A great time to visit the grotto is on a game day of the university’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. Hordes of religious followers and sports fanatics come to pray for the team’s victory and wellbeing. Curiously, the grotto caught fire in 1985 after an estimated 1,500 candles were lit during a game against Michigan State. There has been a limit on candles ever since.
The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is free to visit and open 24 hours a day. You’ll find it located adjacent to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Public buses travel to the university from downtown South Bend. Drivers can park for a fee at the visitor parking lot outside Walsh Hall.