Notre Dame grotto


The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is one-seventh the size of the famed French shrine where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette on 18 occasions in 1858. Notre Dame founder Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., vowed in 1873 to reproduce the grotto on the campus of his new university after visiting the French site on one of his many trips to his native country.

Holy water from Lourdes was purported to be the source of miraculous cures and became a central part of Father Sorin’s fundraising for the new church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart begun in 1871. A gift from Rev. Thomas Carroll, a former theology student, finally made the replica grotto possible in 1896, three years after Father Sorin’s death.

Boulders from surrounding farms, most weighing two tons or more, were used in its construction. A small piece of stone from the original grotto in France is located on the right-hand side of the shrine directly below the statue of Mary.