By Steve Tawa

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A public art installation called the “Knotted Grotto” will become a brief sanctuary for reflections by the faithful.

It is located outside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul from now through the end of the Papal Visit weekend.

(credit: Steve Tawa)

(credit: Steve Tawa)

Artists using boat-building techniques constructed the 20-by-13 foot domed structure made of ash and mahogany, a representation of one of Pope Francis’ favorite paintings entitled “Mary, Undoer of Knots.”

It depicts Mary, surrounded by angels, untying knots to form a long strip.

Sister Mary Scullion, co-founder of the homeless advocacy group, Project HOME, says Philadelphians jotted down their thoughts on ribbons of fabric.


“These 30,000 plus knots came out of soup kitchens, homeless shelters, recovery residences and prisons.”

Now woven into curved slats, they form an outer skin that shapes the grotto. Sister Mary says they represent what Pope Francis called “the cry of the poor in our time.”

Scullion says the knotty exhibit also includes the struggles of people from all walks of life.

She says people can walk inside and “leave their problems behind.”

“We need God’s grace to loosen our knots, but we also need each other.”

Visitors are invited to tie their own knots of struggle, and to untie the knots of others in need.

Lead artist Meg Saligman says, “A knot throughout all cultures in time has symbolized struggles.”

Some knots address specific issues, like this small sampling: “Mary, please undo the knots of addiction and abuse that are destroying so many lives.”

“…from all the wounded warriors, the homeless and their families, that they find peace and happiness.”

“I’m tired of being my own worst enemy, where my negative thought patterns keep me hostage.”

“…to cure the cancer in my son.”

“Prayers for those who forgot how to pray.”

“Pray for a peaceful and violence free world, filled with love.”

They hope Pope Francis will bless the grotto, in Scullion’s words, “and embrace these struggles, lifting them up in prayer.”