“mad, vast, religious, the Twelve Stations of the Cross, little individual twelve altars set in, you go in front, kneel, everything but incense in the air (the roar of the river, mysteries of nature, fireflies in the night flickering to the waxy stare of statues, I knew Doctor Sax was there flowing in the back darks with his wild and hincty cape).”
— Jack Kerouac, Dr. Sax
In Lowell, MA, on the grounds of the Franco American School, which was originally an orphanage,
is a spectacular scaled replica of the Grotto Our Our Lady of Lourdes, France. It was built in 1911.
It’s a strange and eerie place, quintssentially Catholic. There are nearly life-size Stations of the Cross, painted in garish colors. At the end of the stations is a long, stone staircase that devote French-Canadian Catholics climbed on their knees. At the top is a huge crucifix that overlooks the grotto and the school grounds.
Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, in Little Canada, where the grotto is located. Kerouac was an unusal person, and a wonderful writer. If you haven’t read him, I highly recommend that you read On the Road some day when you’re in the mood for something wierd but uplifting. Here’s a famous quote from On the Road you may have heard before.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
In one of Kerouac’s wierdest books, Dr. Sax, the Grotto is practically a main character.
“It hugely mooked ahead of us, to the right…that baleful night. It belonged to the orphanage on the corner of Pawtucket St. and School St. At the head of the white bridge – a big grotto is their backyard, mad, vast, religious, the Twelve Stations of the Cross, little individual twelve alters set in, you go in front, everything but incense in the air – the road of the river mysteries of the nature, fireflies in the night flickering to the waxy statues – culminating, was the gigantic pyramid of steps upon which the cross itself poked phallically up with its poor burden the Son of Man all skewered across it in his Agony and Fright –”
Hey, Jack Kerouac!
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