By Steph Haeg
While searching for new history column ideas, one suggested topic that stood out to me was the statues at CSB and SJU.
There’s all sorts of statues on both campuses, and many of them have fascinating histories.
One of my personal favorites is the Grotto statue at CSB. The statue was placed in 1910, and cost $100 (approximately $2,570 in today’s currency). It was a
common place for devotion, being located near the cemetery. It was decorated for religious events.
The Grotto was redesigned in 1939 to include St. Bernadette and to create the scene of Our Lady of Lourdes. Bernadette was added kneeling on the ground in
adoration of Mary, who looks down from her niche. St. John’s has their own Our Lady of Lourdes grotto, although it seems to be less well known.
The Bernadette statue has its own story to tell. Sometime during the 1960s, Bernadette vanishes from the photos of the grotto. I can’t find a single explanation for why the statue vanished; none of the student newspapers even comment on its disappearance, so it remains a mystery, at least to me.
Fifty years passed, and Bernadette remained missing. But for the 100th anniversary of the Grotto, a new statue of Bernadette was donated, and you can see her there now if you go to visit.
The landscape of the statues has changed over the years too; there was once a statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help outside of where is now Aurora Hall. She was placed there (it was in the middle of a field at the time) in the 1930s as a prayer to help the college procure funds for new buildings. She was removed in 1998, ironically when the Bookstore addition to Mary Commons was added, to be placed in Mary Hall.
There are indoor statues too of course; students who wander through Clemens Library will notice Breaking Free, a statue installed in 2013. Wandering around the BAC, you’re likely to find plenty of smaller works.
There are plenty more statues on campus, but sometimes it’s easy to just let them be a part of the scenery. Next time you wander around, maybe take a look, and see what you can find.