Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 207 - The Grotto at Mount St. Mary's

(Click any photo to enlarge.)

Pangborn Campanile
As one travels on Rt. 15 near Emmitsburg, one can't help but notice the golden statue of Mary looking down over the campus of Mount St. Mary's University.  On a sunny day, the gilded figure just gleams.  This statue is actually part of the Pangborn Memorial Campanile, a 95 foot high carillon topped with a 25 foot high bronze figure covered in gold leaf.  The bells were ringing when I was there today, every fifteen minutes, to mark the time.

I parked at the larger of the two lots at the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes, because a sign said the smaller lot was full.  However, it was not full due to visitors, but because a new visitor center is under construction, and workers were going full speed today.

One of the paths
This was my first visit to the site, so I followed one group of people who seemed to know where they were going, making our way around the construction.  There were two gated entrances to pathways up the side of the mountain, and the one I took was the lower path.  Along the way were tiled pictures of various saints and scenes from the Bible.  There were statues and benches and memorial plaques interspersed with gardens and walkways and places to sit and reflect.

Spring water filling station
As I neared the actual grotto, I passed a fountain where people were filling jugs of water from the spring.  The website for the grotto states, "Many pilgrims visit just for the Grotto water. Many believe that its natural properties are cleansing and healthy for the body and soul; others believe it can heal. Although there are no documented miracles, many have reported favors and graces from drinking the Grotto spring water."  Just up from the fountain, which was bordered by a rocky stream, was a small chapel, which is the third one built to replace the original founded by Father John Dubois in 1805.

The Grotto
A grotto by definition is a small cave or cavern, and it is located farther up the hill, behind the chapel.  Constructed of stone, it contains a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and devotional candles, some of which were lit. Stairs lead up beyond the grotto cave to The Calvary Setting.

A number of signs and plaques in the grotto tell the story of the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, America's first saint, who lived in the log cabin at the site for a short while before moving to Emmitsburg.  She founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph's and established the first free Catholic school for girls.

14th Station of the Cross
To leave the grotto, I took the other direction, which led me past the stations of the cross.  These were stone structures with copper bas-relief panels; each had a beautiful patina.

View from the top of the cemetery
I emerged back into the parking area and walked up through the cemetery of St. Anthony's Shrine, located on the side of the mountain.  Beyond it, farther up and to the side of this cemetery, was the more modern-day Mount St. Mary's cemetery.  A walk along its paths, through areas designated as groves, gives one not only good exercise but great views of the university far below and the valley beyond.

I'm glad I chose today to visit, because tomorrow is Good Friday, and there are events planned that will ensure crowds of visitors.  This site is well worth a walking visit, even for non-Catholics like myself, to appreciate the beauty and the history and the serenity of the setting.


Visit my photography show, "My Maryland," at the public library in Urbana, Maryland, on the lower level of the building.  It is there until the end of April.

Hurricane Sandy Relief: Donate to the Red Cross, and I will mail you a 5 x 7 print from any of the photos I have posted on my blog OR any photo on my website.

Forward to me via email a receipt for donating to the Red Cross. Tell me whether the photo is from the blog or the website, and Include its title along with a mailing address. The name on the receipt to the Red Cross must match the name of the mailing recipient. Send the receipt and the photo request to

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Cam's rules for the Daily Photo Walk:
  1. walk every day
  2. the walk must be in addition to any other planned activity for the day
  3. post a photo every day
  4. use whatever camera is easy and convenient for walking comfortably; always have a backup camera at the ready in case of mishaps (I use the Nikon Coolpix P7700)
  5. no weather excuses
  6. walk only where it is safe to do so

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