The Touching Story Behind Our Lady of the Rockies

Last Updated on April 20, 2023 by Jess

All over the world you’ll see famous statues – instantly recognizable icons.

But one statue that may not make the list of the ten most famous sculptures in the world, but is among the five tallest statues in America, is Our Lady of the Rockies in Butte, Montana.

Let’s take a closer look at the beautiful story of love behind this artistic creation. Perhaps you are planning a visit to see this towering work of art in person. Let’s dive in!

What is Our Lady of the Rockies?

Our Lady of the Rockies is a giant statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Its construction took six years. In December 1979, the project began as a tribute to the Virgin Mary. In September 1985, construction began with the pouring of concrete.

Just a few months later, on December 17, 1985, the Nevada Air National Guard lifted the four pieces of the statue into the air with a crane. Thousands of local residents watched this process until the head, the final piece, was placed on top of the statue.

Where is Our Lady of the Rockies?

The statue stands high on a mountain overlooking the town of Butte, Montana. Butte is located at the intersection of Interstate 90 and I-15 in southwestern Montana.

The town is about an hour and a half south of Helena and about two and a half hours west of the Idaho border.

The base of Our Lady of the Rockies is 8,510 feet above sea level and 3,500 feet above the city. At night it is illuminated and casts a beautiful glow in the night sky.

The pure white color of the statue contrasts with the darkness of the Rockies in which it stands.

How tall is Our Lady of the Rockies?

Our Lady of the Rockies, at 88.5 feet tall, is the third tallest statue in the United States. The base of the statue used 400 tons of concrete.

The Statue of Liberty in New York and the Pegasus and Dragon in Florida surpass it at 151 and 110 feet, respectively. However, the Birth of the New World statue in Puerto Rico is the tallest in all of North America at 360 feet.

Source: Wikipedia

Why was Our Lady of the Rockies built?

Originally, the idea to honor the Virgin Mary came about when Bob O’Bill’s wife, Joyce, of Butte, was diagnosed with cancer. He vowed to erect the statue in honor of all mothers if she survived.

Joyce told CNN in a 1979 interview, “He was concerned about raising our daughters alone, and … well, he was worried about me.”

Fortunately, Joyce survived, and his idea took shape. Although he originally had a six-foot statue in mind, it was his pure joy to suggest a much larger plan.

Much of the construction was made possible by local community support for the O’Bills. With donations of money, materials and labor, the 90-foot-tall Our Lady of the Rockies took shape.

She stands tall above the town of Butte. The land on which the statue was to be erected was also donated.

Joyce goes on to explain the love of the community, “They all got behind it and built it. I think every one of the guys and the people who worked on it felt that individual love for their mothers and their family. They all put their love into it.”

Don’t forget: If you’re looking for another religious work of art, check out Salvation Mountain!

What is the purpose of the statue today?

Although the statue was originally intended as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, today Our Lady of the Rockies stands for women and mothers all over the world, regardless of their religious beliefs.

A makeshift shrine at the statue contains personal mementos, stuffed animals, plaques, candles and handwritten notes, all honoring mothers.

The mission statement of Our Lady of the Rockies states, “To recognize the dignity of motherhood and the sacrificial love of a mother for her child, without regard to nationality or creed, in a manner that honors all women and uplifts the human spirit in love, peace and joy.”

Visitors from around the world come to the statue to honor their mothers and the women in their lives.

What is the Women’s Memorial Wall?

Next to the statue are a chapel and an observatory. In 2001, volunteers erected a Women’s Memorial Wall here, where people could fill out dedication forms online to have their mothers’ names immortalized on the wall.

This memorial continues to grow, adding more and more names from around the world, so that over 15,000 name plaques have been added to date. Many visitors come to Our Lady of the Rockies to find the name of their mothers and to thank them.

Was there controversy over the religious statue?

But like any religious statue, Our Lady of the Rockies has not been without controversy.

Although the statue depicts mothers from all walks of life and is not affiliated with any particular religion or denomination, the figure’s location in a highly visible public place has raised questions about the separation of church and state.

Ann Landers, the pseudonym of Ruth Crowley in the Chicago Sun-Timespublished a letter from a reader in March 1985 complaining about how “a religious group in Butte, Montana, is imposing its religious beliefs on an entire town.”

In addition, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Anaconda Job Corps for contributing to the construction of the chapel.

According to the lawsuit, the use of federal funds for the construction of a place of worship was improper.

Please note: Is the Enchanted Highway worth a visit? Let’s dive in!

How can you visit Our Lady of the Rockies?

The road leading to the top of the mountain is closed to public traffic. Our Lady of the Rockies is not open to the public, but you can take a bus tour.

These private tours last about two and a half hours and include an hour stop at the statue.

The road to the mountain is rocky and winding, but it is well worth it to see this beautiful work of art at the top of the town of Butte.

Is Our Lady of the Rockies worth a visit?

You don’t have to be religious to understand the story behind the construction of Our Lady of the Rockies. It is a beautiful image of a man who loved his wife.

When you visit the shrine, you can bring something that represents your mother to leave there. Or you may find her name carved on the women’s memorial wall. And pause to thank the women in your life who have shaped, encouraged and taught you along your life’s journey.

Will you visit Our Lady of the Rockies when you travel through Montana?

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