Approximately 5,000 visitors walk through the doors of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart each month. Some come to attend Mass under Luigi Gregori’s intricately painted ceilings, while others come to marvel at Ivan Meštrović’s famed Pietà sculpture or to listen to the magnificent 5,000-pipe Murdy Family organ. Yet others still come to tour the reliquary chapel and learn about the rich history of the Basilica.
Surprisingly, many who pass through those grand double doors remain unaware of the modest chapel situated just one floor below. Here, there aren’t elaborate murals on the wall or dazzling stained-glass windows, but nestled between the wooden pews, you’ll find a single marble crypt with the Latin inscription:
“Here lies Orestes A. Brownson, who acknowledged humbly the true faith, lived a complete life, and by writing and speaking courageously defended his church and country, and, granted that his body may have been taken by death, the endeavors of his mind remain immortal monuments of genius.”
One of only two people buried under the Basilica, Orestes Augustus Brownson was neither a student nor a faculty member at Notre Dame. In fact, there is no record of him ever visiting the University. Yet his final resting place conveys he played an important role in the history of Our Lady’s University. So how did he get such a coveted burial spot on campus?