What is it? - a builder explains


We have partnered with the bi-monthly Lethbridge living Magazine since 2008 to bring the regular "What is it?” feature to regional and internet audiences. In each issue of the magazine a photo of a three-dimensional artifact or, alternatively, an archival photo from our holdings is included. People are asked to submit their guess at lethbridgelivingonline.com by a certain date to be eligible to win a Galt Museum Family Pass valued at $25.

The most recent installment asked people to identify where and what one of our archival photos was about. It showed the Dedication ceremony for the Lady of Lourdes Grotto on October 23, 1955.

The number of entries depends on the nature of the artifact or photo featured, and this time 4 correct entries were received. It seems that the randomly selected winner, Tony Bouw, was actually involved with the building of the object in question, and has provided this background:

I have some more information for you on Lourdes Farm and the Shrine.

Lourdes Farm was owned and operated by the "Brothers of Lourdes" from Holland (this is an organization and form of clergy belonging to the Roman Catholic Church similar to what the Catholic Nuns are). About five Brothers came from Holland where they own and operate Mental institutions and Orphanage homes,and they also do other charitable work.

In 1954 they purchased/owned a farm (named Lourdes Farm) about 2 KM east of "Steward Siding" along highway #4. The farm was purchased in late 1954 and about 5 brothers arrived from Holland shortly after. The plan was to develop an Orphanage on the farm. My parents were employed on the farm to do the farm work and they also lived there. The Grotto or Shrine as it was known was build by the Brothers in 1955, the Grotto/shrine was modelled after the shrine of Lourdes in France,it is believed that there,in 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous.


The Grotto the brothers build in 1955 was very simple in construction, the framework consisted of 2X4 lumber nailed together in all directions and pieces of lumber sticking out what would represent outcroppings of rock,the wooden frame was then draped with burlap dipped in a concrete slurry. A statue of the Virgin Mary was placed in an opening near the centre and top. The ground level centre had an indentation which contained a small altar and candle racks. A few benches with kneelers were located in front of the shrine and pilgrims could attend anytime, to worship and then light a candle.I can remember several religious ceremonies including the celebration of an outdoor mass being held at the shrine with many people attending.

The construction of the Grotto was simple and very economical and I am surprised for its durability as it was in remarkable good condition yet when it was torn down in about 2006.