If you’re new to Butte, you may notice a glowing figure standing high up on the mountainside. What is that? Who is she? you may be wondering. Well, this glowing statue is known as Our Lady of the Rockies. With a unique history, she is a symbol honoring women everywhere. Butte citizens have great pride in this statue and its unique addition to the mountains of western Montana.
Who is She?
Across town from the Montana Connections Business Development Park, Our Lady of the Rockies is a 90-foot tall statue that was built to resemble Mary, Mother of Jesus. However, the statue is dedicated to all women– regardless of religion or beliefs.
Standing 8,500 feet above sea level on private land, Our Lady is the third largest statue in the United States. She weighs over 80 tons and is made out of steel. The statue’s hands alone are each eight feet long!
Where did She come from?
First imagined by Butte-native Bob O’Bill, Our Lady was born out of love for his wife, who was diagnosed with cancer. Bill decided he would build a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe if his wife survived– and she did. So, Bill began the project to build this monumental statue.
The statue was largely constructed using donations of money, materials, and labor from the local community. The design was engineered by Laurien Eugene Riehl, a retired engineer for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company who donated his skills to the project.
Work on the project began in December of 1979. Six years later, on December 17, 1985, a CH-54 Tarhe from the Army National Guard’s 137th Aviation Company airlifted the statue in four sections to its present location at Saddle Rock atop Butte’s East Ridge on the Continental Divide.
What She stands for today.
Along with visiting the statue herself, there is also an observatory/chapel where weddings are held. The outer walls of the basement of the chapel are Memorial Walls meant to honor all women and mothers. The Memorial Wall has over 15,000 name tiles and accepts submissions of any deceased woman’s name.
Butte is well-known for its attitude of hard work and perseverance through trial, and Our Lady of the Rockies and the story of how she was built represents these ideas well.
How to visit Our Lady.
Visitors and Butte community members alike can take a tour to see Our Lady of the Rockies up close. Hop on one of the multiple buses that head up the mountain during the summer and early fall to take a two-hour round trip and visit her. You can even go inside!
For those looking for more of a challenge, you can also take a hike to get up close and personal. The Maud S Canyon trail to the Continental Divide is about a 15-mile round trip hike with 1,000+ meters of elevation gain. Once you see the statue up close, it is all worthwhile!