If you drive on U.S. Route 15 in Maryland near the
Pennsylvania border, you'll see signs for Mount St. Mary's
University in Emmitsburg. You can see much of the campus and
the seminary from the road. If you know where to look, you
can also see the tower and statue of Mary at the entrance to
the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on St.
The original grotto was established in 1805 by Father John
DuBois, who, the story goes, saw a light on the mountain and
walked to the spot. He made a cross from tree twigs and
attached it to a tree to mark the holy spot. He built a
church on the mountain that is now occupied by the tower and
statue of Mary.
Three years later, Father DuBois founded the seminary on the
ground below the early grotto.
In 1809, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the Sisters of
Charity, came to the grotto and lived for six weeks in the
cabin that nearby parishioners built for Father DuBois until
her residence near Emmitsburg was completed.
In 1812, Father Simon Bruté was named the first
spiritual director of Mount St. Mary's Seminary. He took a
personal interest in the grotto, clearing trees, cleaning
streams and making paths to it. He attached crosses made of
twigs to trees on the path.
John Joseph Hughes came to the United States from Ireland in
1817, and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1826 and a bishop
While studying at Mount St. Mary's, he was employed to tend
the garden near the grotto and lived in a cabin on the grotto
grounds. That cabin has been restored and moved to a spot
that has a view of the valley and the university.
Until 1958, the grotto was a place of meditation used by
students and professors from the college and seminary. Grotto
Director Father Hugh J. Phillips, known as the "Restorer of
the Grotto," paved the road from the bottom terrace to the
grotto, made other improvements and opened the grotto to the
public for the first time in 150 years.
The shrine now welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors
The road to the grotto is winding, but well-signed. There is
a large parking lot at the main entrance. Limited handicapped
parking is available, but the grotto staff will come to your
car and drive you to parts of the shrine in a golf cart.
The first thing visitors see as they drive up to the parking
lot is the Pangborn Memorial Campanile, a 95-foot tower
topped with a gold-leafed bronze statue of the Blessed
Mother. The tower is in front of the Richard and Mary Lee
Miller Family Visitors Center, which includes exhibits and a
gift shop. After exiting the visitors center you'll see the
Mother Teresa Garden and the Seton Walkway to Corpus Christi
Lane and the outdoor Stations of the Cross.
At the end of Corpus Christi Lane is the Corpus Christi
Chapel built in 1905 on the site of the original grotto
created by Father DuBois. Beyond the chapel is the Grotto of
Lourdes Cave, which is a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes in
At the grotto you can light a candle, sit, pray and mediate.
Near the grotto cave is a statue of St. Bernadette Soubirous,
the young girl from Lourdes who saw the Blessed Virgin 18
times in 1858.
On the return trip down Rosary Lane, you'll pass a pool of
water with a statue of Our Lady of the Esplanade in the
center. Water flows from taps around the pool, and people can
bring their own containers to collect the water that can be
blessed by a grotto chaplain.
Then you'll pass shrines to the 15 mysteries of the rosary,
Padre Pio, Our Lady of LaVang, St. John Paul II, St.
Faustina, the Holy Family and many more.
At the end of Rosary Lane is the Chapel of St. Mary on the
Hill, or the Glass Chapel, with panoramic views of the
It's a good walk, and most places are wheelchair accessible
except the steps to the chapel.
If you go
The National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is located
on U.S. Route 15 at Mount St. Mary's University in
Emmitsburg, Md. Follow the grotto signs.
For more information, go to msmary.edu/grotto or call