September 23, 1985 - Grotto catches fire over football weekend

We've already looked at how Notre Dame lost to Michigan and then convincingly beat Michigan State. Since Notre Dame had started the season #14 and then lost at Michigan, did they return to their true form against Michigan State truly deserving the ranking? Or was there some other factor at play, something from above?

GrottoPrior to the game, many fans making the annual pilgrimage back for the first home game of the season stopped by the Grotto. As is customary at the Grotto, fans would light a candle and offer a set of prayers. No doubt some (or all) of these prayers included a mention for a victory on the gridiron the following day. If one person lit a candle and said that prayer, then no problem. However, nearly 1,500 people stopped by the Grotto to light a candle. Every rack was filled, the trays under the racks were filled, and extra candles were placed around the ground. All of these must have worked since Notre Dame beat Michigan State 27-10.

Early in the morning two days after the game when everyone was still enjoying the victory, murmurs of a fire quickly began spreading through campus. As people began gathering towards the Grotto, heavy black smoke was billowing from the opening. The plastic containers of the candles on the ground had ignited from the heat of the candles. The trays under the racks then lit the containers in the racks on fire and it spread from there.

Once the fire department arrived and began dousing the fire with water, the overheated rocks began to split and crack. Large pieces fell off in blocks and lay on the ground. Once the fire was out, the rocks were badly charred and smoke had smeared the statue of The Virgin Mary. A picture of the charred Grotto can be seen here. Following the fire, the rocks and statues needed a thorough cleaning. Since this could not be done immediately, students still came to kneel and offer a prayer. One such student was captured in a photograph here. A professional cleaning crew came in and refurbished the Grotto with minimal visual difference. If anything good came out of the fire, it was the decades worth of candle soot and wax that had built up on the stones.

Afterwards, the trees grew back and there was no noticeable signs of a fire. The candles were no longer in plastic containers and glass was once again used (for only so long...we'll revisit that later). For a time, the number of candles that could be placed was limited as well. Today, you would not know there ever was a fire unless someone told you. And now, you know.

Keywords: grotto, michigan state, fire

Posted On: 2011-09-23 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07


      Were you there? Have more to add? Leave a comment and let us know!

   Posted By: IrishTrpt07 at 2011-09-27 05:36:39[#2]
At 2011-09-26 19:56:08, John Clark posted:
Now it seems we only see the glass candles during football season and plastic the rest of the year. Is that correct or am I mixing that up?
I don't know the full timeline of the candle holders but they have gone back and forth between glass and plastic. They had been plastic for a good portion of when we were there and were plastic up until last summer. Then they switched back to glass last summer and are still using glass. We'll get to why they chose to go back to glass in a post this summer.
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   Posted By: John Clark at 2011-09-26 19:56:08[#1]
Now it seems we only see the glass candles during football season and plastic the rest of the year. Is that correct or am I mixing that up?
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