Saint's statue to be
placed in grotto in
St. Joseph neighborhood
By Sheryl Edelen
What: May Day ceremony and blessing of the statue of St.
When: noon, May 6.
Where: Grotto and Garden of Our Lady of Lourdes, off
President's Boulevard (next to University Park Apartments)
Details: The event will include a procession from Our Mother
of Sorrows Catholic Church, 747 Harrison Ave., to the grotto.
Information: Gail Linville, 637-3159
A 5-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary was
installed last year in the Grotto and Garden of Our Lady of
Lourdes, off President's Boulevard next to University Park
Apartments, on the grounds of the former St. Joseph Infirmary. A
statue of St. Bernadette will be added to the left side next month.
(Photos by Pam Spaulding, The Courier-Journal)
A St. Joseph neighborhood landmark soon will receive
its last major improvement, a painted statue representing a Roman
Next month, the Grotto and Garden of Our Lady of Lourdes, off
President's Boulevard next to University Park Apartments, will
receive a 3-foot-tall statue of Bernadette Soubirous. In 1858, the
14-year-old French girl claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin
Mary on 18 occasions in a cave-like grotto in Lourdes, France.
The site of the visions was the inspiration for building the
Louisville grotto in 1927 on the grounds of St. Joseph Infirmary.
(The Catholic hospital was razed in the 1980s and replaced by
Audubon Hospital on Poplar Level Road.)
St. Joseph Neighborhood Association President Gail Linville is
coordinating Bernadette's installation after months of searching
online and across the eastern United States.
Linville said she ended up buying the figure for $75 from a Pleasure
Ridge Park-area pet store that also sold stone statues.
"I've looked everywhere and ended up finding her 10 miles from my
home," chuckled the lifelong St. Joseph resident.
A 5-foot-tall statue of Mary installed in the grotto last year was
paid for with a $1,200 donation (plus $200 shipping).
The association asked artist Dwane Beckhart to paint the stone
figure of Bernadette, who is portrayed kneeling with a candle.
The pose commemorates what Catholics call the Miracle of the Candle,
which refers to the girl's 16th visit from Mary. During that visit,
Bernadette was said to cover the flame of a candle with a hand for
at least 15 minutes without injury.
As a grotto volunteer, Beckhart also painted the Virgin Mary statue
and the 14 stations of the cross in 2003 and a fence mural at
Attwood Street and Bradley Avenue.
Beckhart is a maintenance employee and longtime member of Southeast
Christian Church, where he has painted murals in the children's
library and activity center.
Beckhart said his reason for doing the work is simple: He loves the
way it makes him feel. "I just really like doing things for church
and the community," he said.
The grotto's architects were D.X. Murphy and Bros., Catholics who
designed numerous Catholic schools, churches and rectories in the
The "Grotto Grannies," a group of elderly neighborhood volunteers,
adopted the grotto about 20 years ago. They have planted garden
plots and helped secure and oversee the installation of a historical
marker, a floodlight, flagpole, sundial and memorial urn honoring
former association President Ernie Blankenship, who died in 2002.
The Kentucky Historical Society received a complaint in 2005 about
the historic marker. The grotto property belongs to the University
of Louisville, and thus the marker's narrative of the religious
event violated the principle of separation of church and state, the
The state attorney general said the narrative could remain because
it makes no attempt to advocate a particular religious perspective.
Linville said no other major improvements are planned. During the
years-long restoration project, she added, vandalism has dropped
while the number of visitors has risen.
"Because volunteers are over there at different hours, we notice
people in there at different times when once there weren't any," she
said. "At last year's installation, I think we had about 100
Despite initial skepticism, Bernadette's claims eventually were
accepted by the Roman Catholic Church and in 1933 she was canonized.
Reporter Sheryl Edelen can be reached at (502) 582-4621.