Our Lady of the Rockies Statue: Catholic Field Trip

History Channel has a reputation for digging out weird anti-Catholic or anti-Christian myths, but I want to give it credit where credit is due. I just saw a very interesting story on the engineering show Boneyards about the reclaiming and reusing of the old Anaconda copper mines in Butte, Montana. Said show did its darndest to imply in its closing segment that all the good stuff being done by the current owners is courtesy of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Anyway, a miner guy with the felicitous name of Bob O’Bill found out that his wife had cancer. He told all his buddies that if his wife recovered, he had vowed to build a nine foot concrete statue of Mary in his yard as thanks. Well, his wife did recover, but in their eagerness to help out, his coworkers transformed the statue project into a ninety foot statue to be placed on the Great Divide. (It would have been 120 feet, but the FAA told them Mary would then have to have a giant blinking light on her head, which would have really messed up their windshear calculations as well as the look.)

Using donated land and donated materials (like pipes!), designed by a retired engineer and a welder, put together at a construction company, and then put into place at a site so high that a road had first to be built and the statue parts flown in by helicopter, this thing is an amazing product of grassroots Catholicism and blue-collar American faith and friendship.

(It’s officially nondenominational, interestingly enough, and much is said on the website about it honoring all women. To which I say, Whatever makes non-Catholic people comfortable with building and loving a big giant honkin’ statue of Mary.) ;)

I’d never even heard of it! Had you? I’m pretty sure I never saw anything about it as a kid, and I was watching the evening news by 1985. I guess it makes an appearance in one of the old Bud McFarland novels, but I never got around to reading those.


Official Website
for Our Lady of the Rockies.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Our Lady of the Rockies Statue: Catholic Field Trip

  1. +JMJ+

    Could they have compromised with twelve blinking lights in a crown on Mary’s head? Or would the electricity bills have killed them anyway?

    By the way, I’ve read McFarlane’s three novels and am pretty sure this one is in House of Gold. At first, I actually thought he had made it up because I figured such a huge statue would be more famous. Well, your post probably marks only the second time I’ve read about it.

  2. Brian

    Yes, I’ve heard of it and seen it, but then we used to visit my Grandmother in Montana every year! You can see it from I-90 if you look for it.

  3. The lady was put up on the mountain in 1985. You can see her from all over town. It really is a testament to the dedication of the volunteer labor in Butte. We are the “Can Do City”. Come visit and take a tour to the top of the Continental divide. Exceptional view!

  4. Yes i have seen it! I was living in MT at the time they built it. It really hasn’t gotten the coverage it deserves. To my mind it is much like Mary herself, she preferred, in obedience to God’s plan to remain largely in obscurity for centuries as her gift and role in the Church has gradually been brought into prominence.

    The obscurity of the statue is largely because this happened in MT where the national news rarely treads, and because it is a statue of Mary and falls in the domain of ‘religion’ for the press – and conservative low-brow Catholicism at that.

    Even living in 2 other communities not far from Butte during the years of construction I head very little about the story. What I did hear I thought was a little kooky. Why? I thought… And I was Catholic.

    Then gradually I began to appreciate it. I soon learned to look for the lighted figure on the great divide. During college I often drove by Butte late late at night and the shining statue of Mary on top of the mountain was something to look forward to.

    If you go to Butte you can ride a bus up to the statue – it is a private road, and definitely 4 wheel drive high clearance required, so you need to take the tour. There is an excellent book written by the primary sculpture that tells the story of the many miracles that occurred during the construction.

    When I finally read the book, I came to believe that Mary really did want her statue on that Mountain.

    website for Our Lady of the Rockies

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