Mount Mercy welcomes curator Lisa Stone for ‘Grottos in the Heartland’

Mount Mercy University will welcome curator Lisa Stone for a special lecture, "Grottos in the Heartland" on Thursday, November 3 at 7:00 p.m. in Donnelly 300. The lecture is free and open to the public. Seating may be limited.

As curator of the Roger Brown Study Collection of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Stone will trace the history of the Catholic devotional grottos in Iowa and Wisconsin, and their radiating influence on builders who created environments at home. Mount Mercy's Lady of Sorrows Grotto will be a paramount example of these unique pieces.

"Grottos in the Heartland" will share the story of Mount Mercy's grotto, as well as countless other unique grottos in the Heartland. The tradition of grottos began in 1912 with Father Paul Dobberstein's remarkable work in West Bend, Iowa, and subsequently, building grottos of both highly embellished concrete and ingenious rockwork evolved into a regional custom, in which Mount Mercy Lady of Sorrows Grotto by William Lightner is an exceptional example.

Lisa StoneStarted in 1929 by William Lightner, Mount Mercy's Lady of Sorrows Grotto is a cherished landmark on Mount Mercy's campus, which includes arched entryways, a bridge surrounded by a lagoon, a ten column structure representing the Ten Commandments, and a monumental central shrine containing mosaics of the seven sorrows of Christ's mother.

The ten-column structure is the centerpiece of the lagoon, with each of the commandments inscribed on the base in mosaic. The huge central shrine is a grotto cave holding a white marble statue of the Virgin Mary made from Carrara marble by the Italian sculptor Marcello Rebechini. The statue was originally installed in 1949 after the shrines' dedication by Archbishop Beckman in 1941.

Mount Mercy's Lady of Sorrows Grotto has recently received a 2011-12 Iowa Arts Council Major Organizations Grant toward restoration of the historic site. With help from the grant and matching funds from alumni, the Mount Mercy Art Club and friends of the institute, the Warde arch will begin restoration and cataloging, with an expected completion date of summer 2012.

Collaboration on the project is wide-spread, involving Mount Mercy students and outreach endeavors with areas schools, including Erskine, Arthur, Metro High and The Paul Engle Center in Cedar Rapids. Also lending support for this renovation is Preservation Services, Technical Specialties Co. in Cedar Rapids, and the Cedar Valley Rock and Mineral Club.

In addition to serving as curator, Stone is also an adjunct associate professor in the department of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the Art Institute of Chicago. She has worked on the documentation and preservation of art environments for many years, and currently works with Preservation Service, Inc. She lives in Spring Lake, Wis., where she works on a garden/ruin.

For more information on Mount Mercy's historic Lady of Sorrows Grotto, visit 


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