OUR LADY OF LOURDES GROTTO.
Many Erskine pupils have especially fond memories of the school feast day celebrations, including processions to the sacred Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto. Now restored and relocated to the Reverend Mother’s Garden, the Grotto was once part of the thickly wooded ‘Black Forest’ cloaked in mature pohutukawa, cedar and sycamore trees behind the Convent Building. Just above the road was a narrow woodland zig-zag path. The girls would walk up, past the oval shaped fishpond, where they’d trail their hands, to a grassy terrace, with a small arched mosaic shrine inlaid with river-stones, shells and ceramic shards, that once held a statue of the Virgin Mary.
The grotto at Erskine College was built as a replica of the grotto at Massabielle in Lourdes, France, where, in 1858, while gathering firewood with her sister, 14-year-old peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous saw a vision of the Virgin Mary bathed in dazzling light - a ‘lady’ robed in a white dress with a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot- within a natural rock cave. ‘The Lady’ instructed Bernadette to dig in the ground and drink from a spring she would find - this stream became a focus of devotion for the thousands of visitors who make the pilgrimage to the Grotto - and later revealed herself to Soubirous as ‘Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception’. A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was placed in the grotto, and in 1862, Bishop Laurence of Tarbes endorsed the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes, with the statue dedicated in 1864 in the presence of 20,000 pilgrims.