The Lourdes grottos in Plungė and Kantaučiai


Veronika Lileikienė


The Lourdes grottos situated in Plungė and Kantaučiai (Žemaitija /Samogitia/ ethnographic region) and related facts, as well as sacral events proceeded (or proceeding) in their environs are analysed in the paper; and the ethnocultural features most typical in the žemaičiai social-religious life in this area in order to enrich the religion ethnology of Lithuania are revealed. The goal of the investigation was to unclose the features of origin, development, typological level and their social-religious function of Lourdes grottos in Plungė and Kantaučiai. The investigation tasks were as follows: (1) to investigate the outlines of the origin, development, typological level and social-religious function of Lourdes grottos in Plungė; (2) to identify the key features of the Kantaučiai Lourdes origin, development and social-religious function. The investigation was based on methodological-epistemological principles: structuralism and phenomenological methodology. Historical comparative, participating observation, deep (semi-structural) interview, typological, systematisation, descriptive and synthesis methods have been used in the investigation. The mastermind of the Plungė Lourdes was Marįja Oginskienė (Maria Ogińska) who invited Marie de Grand CCJ (Congregatio Cordae Jesu), the general mother of the Sacred Heart of Jesus nuns, to realise the idea to build the local Lourdes grotto that was formed after 50 years had passed from the apparition of Virgin Mary in the French Lourdes. The church dean V. Jarulaitis had built a wooden chapel above the Lourdes. The nearby based Capuchin monks actively proclaimed the Lourdes; they issued a Catholic magazine ‘Lurdas’ that was popular among the Lithuanian people. In Soviet times the Lourdes grotto was destroyed, and it was rebuilt during Lithuania’s Rebirth period. This Lourdes is notable for a mythological stone called ‘Karvės Pėda’ (Cow’s Footmark). As a history monument, the Lourdes of Plungė is put into the list of newly detected history and culture monuments. There are Catholic festivals held at the Lourdes of Plungė: May prayers, feasts of Corpus Christi and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist are celebrated here. People go in processions, burn the candles, lay votive offerings and flowers, and take photographs. The so-called congresses of sick people make the highlight at the Plungė Lourdes. There are no historical sources about the Lourdes grotto in Kantaučiai. As far as it is known it was built in Soviet times. The Capuchin priest T. K.Rimkus, OFM Cap., tried to exalt the piety of Virgin Mary and to put in order the churchyard that was uncared before. The priest did this relying upon the image of the Plungė Lourdes he got greatly impressed in his younger days. However the sculpture of Virgin Mary in Kantaučiai Lourdes is not typical. The most spectacular event at this Lourdes is the feast of St. Ann, when the grotto turns into a site where the procession stops for a short and people pray. One can see votive offerings and flowers left in the grotto of Kantaučiai Lourdes. People like taking photographs at the Lourdes after the First Communion.