This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Collegiate Statues (part 1 of 3)

After looking at civic sculpture in Rensselaer, it is time to head south to the campus of Saint Joseph's College and see what it has. We will find that it has a fair amount of outdoor sculpture, perhaps reflecting its Catholic roots (Catholics encouraged the visual arts after the Reformation, while Calvinistic branches of the Reformation often did not). Today we will begin looking at what is in the grotto area.
The grotto was built in two stages. The left part of the structure, including the alcove, was built in the first stage and was dedicated on December 8, 1898. The expansion to its present size was done in 1931. "The stones for the structure were gathered from the college farm and neighboring farms....The skilled combination of arches, lagoons, waterfalls, statues, flowers, evergreens, rock gardens, lights and bypaths created an artistic effect." (From Saint Joseph's College: A Chronology by Charles J Robbins, C.PP.S. 1990, p 50.)
The outside of the grotto features a re-creation of the Marian apparition to Bernadette at Lourdes. The little waterfall that may be visible in the picture below flows into a pool at the bottom with some big fish. The Lourdes theme was the focus of the original grotto, I am not sure if this part of the structure was altered or expanded in 1931.
To the right of the Lourdes scene the sidewalk goes under an arch. Immediately past the arch is the entrance to the large grotto, which was part of the work done in the early 1930s.

The cave features a Carrara marble statue of Jesus praying at Gethsemane. I have not been able to find who the sculptor was.
The grotto area also features the stations of the cross, which will get a separate post. Near the start and end of the stations is a little garden area with a small stature of St. Francis of Assisi, dedicated to the memory of Dr. Duvall Jones, who taught biology at the college for many years. Duvall was an avid birder and could identify just about any bird from it call, so dedicating this statue to him was appropriate even though he was a Presbyterian.

Constructing grottoes and outdoor stations of the cross was not uncommon in the late 19th and early in the 20th centuries. The most impressive example of a grotto that I have visited is in West Bend, Iowa. For a look at another grotto close to Rensselaer, see here. For the next part of this series, go here.

1 comment:

aaronmcgowan011 said...

Tornados didnt do much damage. The tornado west of town barely touched down if it even did.