Two 1940s Italian carved marble statues were damaged at the Grotto last week when vandals broke off the heads of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. As of press deadlines, Portland police had recovered baby Jesus’s head, found in a Dumpster at the nearby Travelodge Hotel.
Servite Father Jack Topper, executive director of the national sanctuary, says they do not yet have an estimate of the damage, but they are still hopeful all of the pieces will be recovered so the statues can be repaired.
“These statues are just exquisite,” Father Topper said, as he gazed at the headless statue of Joseph cradling baby Jesus. “Many people have said this is one of their favorite statues, so it’s really so sad. What does this accomplish?”
An outpouring of support has come in to the monastery after news outlets covered the vandalism.
A Grotto grounds manager discovered the statue of Joseph and Jesus the morning of Nov. 29. After the discovery, Father Topper walked the grounds to see if anything else had been disturbed. He discovered a statue of Mary had been knocked over and beheaded in the Grotto cemetery, next to Father Ambrose Meyer, founder of the Grotto. The vandals also smashed the faces of two small angels at the base of the sculpture.
According to Father Topper, vandalism of this magnitude has never occurred at the Grotto, except once 25 years ago when a much smaller statue was damaged.
Baby Jesus’s head was recovered after someone reported seeing a person throw a backpack into a trash receptacle at the Northeast Portland hotel. The eyes of the recovered head had been slashed.
Father Topper is establishing a fund to help pay for the repair or replacement of the statues. For more information, call The Grotto at 503-254-7371. Crime Stoppers has offered a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information in the case. Leave a Crime Stoppers tip online at www.crimestoppersoforegon.com, text CRIMES (274637) and in the subject line put 823HELP, followed by tip, or call 503-823-HELP (4357) and leave tip information.