Lady of Lourdes Grotto
Since 2008 we have partnered with Lethbridge living Magazine on the ‘What is it?' feature. Each issue includes a photo of an unidentified artifact (or, in 2010-2011, an archival photo) from our holdings, and people can submit their guess online to win a museum pass. The April 2011 photo showed the Dedication ceremony for the Lady of Lourdes Grotto on October 23, 1955. Four correct entries were received. It turns out the randomly selected winner, Tony Bouw, was involved with the building of the grotto, and he provided this background:
“Lourdes Farm was owned and operated by the "Brothers of Lourdes" from Holland (an organization and form of clergy belonging to the Roman Catholic Church), where they own and operate mental institutions, orphanages, and do other charitable work.
“In 1954 they purchased/owned a farm (Lourdes Farm) about 2 KM east of "Steward Siding" along highway #4. 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 and they also lived there. The Grotto, or Shrine as it was known, was built by the Brothers in 1955, and modelled after the Shrine of Lourdes in France.
“It was very simple in construction, the framework consisted of 2X4 lumber nailed together in all directions, pieces of lumber sticking out 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 containing 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 light candles. I can remember several religious ceremonies including an outdoor mass with many people attending. I am surprised for its durability as it was in remarkable good condition when it was torn down in about 2006.”
To see the photo yourself, search for “grotto” in the online archives database at www.galtmuseum.com.