Description of Historic Place
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is situated on a natural rocky outcrop located next to St. Michael’s Church on Windgap Road, Flatrock, and is oriented towards the Flatrock harbour. It includes religious statuary, plaques, a pulpit, an altar, an iron gate, stone walls, walkways and steps, a grotto and other structures incorporated into the outcrop. The designation includes the land area which is encompassed by the gate and rock walls at the base of the rocky outcrop; the entire area of the face of the outcrop which has been developed for the Grotto; and the corresponding area at the crest of the outcrop; as well as the landscape features, structures, statuary and other human-made features within that land area.
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto has spiritual, historic, cultural and aesthetic values.
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto has spiritual significance to the community of Flatrock and beyond through its connection with the expression and practise of the Roman Catholic faith. The Grotto is situated on the grounds of St. Michael’s, the community’s only church. Construction of the Grotto began in 1954, the first Marian Year in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as proclaimed by Pope Leo XII. That year, Reverend Father William Sullivan of St. Michael’s Parish went on pilgrimage to the Marian grotto of Massabielle, the famous Grotto of Lourdes, France.
Father Sullivan returned from France with the idea to build a grotto in Flatrock on the parish grounds, modelled after Massabielle. Work began in the summer of 1954, and by 1958 the site included a grotto (cave) and white marble statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Bernadette. Over the years other features have been added, including a marble Crucifix, twelve Stations of the Cross, a statue of St. Michael the Archangel (Patron Saint of the parish community) and other angels, as well as several plaques and tablets.
The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes functions as a religious shrine, a site for prayer and worship. The Parish of St. Michael’s holds annual devotions there. And the Legion of Mary, a Catholic organization of lay people, gathers there in August to the mark Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. A memorial service was held at the Grotto when Pope John Paul II died in April of 2005.
The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes also acts as a site of remembrance and commemoration, a function that imbues it with further spiritual value, as well as historic and cultural significance. Various plaques at the Grotto acknowledge donations, commemorate events, or are in memory of parishioners and supporters of the Grotto.
The spiritual and historic significance of Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto was bolstered when Flatrock was chosen for a visit from Pope John Paul II, in part because of the existence of the Grotto. On September 12, 1984, the Pontiff prayed at the Grotto before delivering a homily and blessing boats in Flatrock harbour from a site across the road from the Grotto.
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto has cultural value, in part connected to its spiritual values, but also because of the investment, through funds and voluntarism, of the people of Flatrock and other supporters in its development and maintenance. All of the statues in the Grotto were gifts from parishioners. And, the Grotto is prominent both as a landmark on the community’s cultural landscape, and as a site of community memory.
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto also has aesthetic significance. Some of its design elements are based on Massabielle in France, including the placement of the shrine in a rocky outcrop and of religious statuary in that landscape feature, as well as the similar style statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Bernadette. General restraint in use of materials has been employed during the development of the Grotto, using mainly natural stone to build walls, stairs, pedestals and monuments, in keeping with the landscape. The imported, white marble statues stand in striking contrast to the natural stone. Several features composed of other materials, like the pulpit and altar, are painted white in keeping with the marble features. And more recently incorporated bronze plaques are in earthy colour tones. Taken together, all these elements create a pleasing blend of cohesive human-made features incorporated within a natural landscape feature.
Source: Town of Flatrock Council Meeting 2005/12/19.
All those elements which relate to the spiritual function of the Grotto, including:
-all human-made features which express elements of Catholicism (statues, plaques, crucifix, stations of the cross, altar, etc.);
-and the inclusion of only those human-made features which befit the spiritual function of the site.
All those elements which are significant to both the spiritual and historic status of the Grotto, including:
-the unimpeded viewplane from the Grotto to the Blessing of the Fleet and Homily Site on the opposite side of Windgap Road, underscoring the relationship between the two sites;
-and the various plaques in memory of parishioners, clergy, or supporters of the Grotto, or commemorating events.
All those elements which contribute to the Grotto’s cultural landmark status, including:
-the orientation towards the ocean;
-the unimpeded view of the Grotto from the grounds of St. Michael’s Church and the portion of Windgap Road in front of it;
-and the height and dimensions of the portions of the rocky outcrop on which the Grotto is situated.
All those elements which are intrinsic to the aesthetic character of the Grotto, including:
-its siting in a natural rocky outcrop;
-the blend of the natural landscape and human-made features;
-the predominant use of natural materials, chiefly stone, and the restrained use of concrete;
-the placement, style and materials of all stonework structures, including stairs, grotto, pedestals, walls;
-the predominant material of white marble for statuary;
-the predominance of the crucifix in the viewscape at the crest of the outcrop;
-and the iron gate at the entryway.