St. James Grotto
July 25th

A grotto for St James’ day is an old London tradition. Children would make them on street corners, and ask for pennies. Originally, back in Medieval times, this was a way to raise funds to help pilgrims setting out for the long journey to the shrine of St. James at Compostella, in Spain. 

 Although by the 19th and 20th centuries the original meaning and purpose were long forgotten, children in the East End of London were still making street-corner "grottoes" in July and August, around the time of the feast of St James.  The custom was noted by a commentator on old festivals and traditions back in the 1930s, by which time it had acquired some new trimmings, as children added pictures of film stars or sporting heroes to their displays.  The tradition has now vanished from the London scene - but the St James' grotto still has a place in the Christian calendar.” - Joanna

 Needed
“Use what you have – if you don’t have something, substitute!”-Joanna 

Pebbles, shells or rocks (from your garden, a walk in the country or at the seashore.)
Statue of St. James
Crucifix
Rosary
Small dish for donations
Small vase or jar
Posy of flowers
Candle or votive light
Holy card(s)

 Assembly
Collect stones, pebbles and small rocks.  It is also traditional to have shells, especially cockle-shells, the symbol of St James. Build them up to make a small hill or semi-circle, (we had a U-shaped grotto on the programme) creating a small grotto in a corner of your garden – or you can just lay them out to form a square. There is no hard and fast rule. In the middle, put a holy picture or two (one of St James is suitable, obviously) a rosary, a small vase with a posy of flowers in it, a little candle, a dish for pennies. If you light the candle, don’t leave unattended.

 The aim is to create something really attractive, worth a visit.  Pilgrims will make a little visit to your grotto, even if it is family in your back garden, to say a prayer - and perhaps even leave a small donation! - which you give to charity.

 Tip
Think of a small version of a Lourdes grotto and you get the idea:  a sort of miniature cave but of stones, with a statue and other items inside. This makes a great display on a side table, or a project for children.

 

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