Peaceful grotto damaged by vandals in Geneva

  • A paint-wielding vandal has defaced a Christian shrine, left over from the days when the Kane County Government Center was a Catholic seminary, in the woods of the campus in Geneva.

      A paint-wielding vandal has defaced a Christian shrine, left over from the days when the Kane County Government Center was a Catholic seminary, in the woods of the campus in Geneva. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • A paint-wielding vandal has defaced a Christian shrine, left over from the days when the Kane County Government Center was a Catholic seminary, in the woods of the campus in Geneva.

      A paint-wielding vandal has defaced a Christian shrine, left over from the days when the Kane County Government Center was a Catholic seminary, in the woods of the campus in Geneva. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

With a pail of paint, a vandal has marred a relic of Kane County history where people pause in quiet contemplation.

Sometime between Oct. 11 and 18, someone poured white paint on the floor, steps, altar and walls of a Christian grotto on the grounds of the Kane County Government Center, 719 s. Batavia Ave., Geneva.

On first seeing the site while on a walk Sunday, one visitor said it seemed the vandal took dead aim at the religious components.

"They were very deliberate about whitewashing over all the religious elements on it," said Kelly Nowak, a Geneva resident who has photographed the grotto frequently for a blog.

The damage was reported to the Kane County Sheriff's Department Saturday, according to Undersheriff Patrick Gengler.

Some of the paint was still sticky Monday morning.

The grotto is off a beaten path, in woods on the southern edge of the grounds. It sits above a creek. Neither is visible from the nearest parking lot.

Before it was the county headquarters, the campus was the Sacred Heart Seminary, training Catholics for the priesthood. The grotto was built by a German priest, out of rocks and colored glass. According to a 1990 Chicago Tribune article, the grotto was kept as is in a compromise between the county, which bought the seminary in 1972, and atheist activist Rob Sherman. He had protested the presence of religious symbols in and on the buildings, including crosses in the stonework, the cornerstone and on pews in the main building. The county agreed to cover most of the crosses.

The grotto was in disrepair before the vandalism, with part of the rear interior wall missing.

"It's a shame to let it go," Nowak said.

On Facebook, people have posted offers for a reward for information about the vandals, and offers to help restore the grotto.

Kane County Forest Preserve District officials are handling the cleanup.

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