Sunday, July 18, 2010

what is it with me and grottoes?

For a girl raised Methodist and currently non-denominationally affiliated, I certainly am drawn to Catholic grottoes.
There is something about the juxtaposition of over-the-top religious icons in the middle of nature that is appealing to me.
I am incredulous of the sight, yet somehow attracted. The pomp and circumstance of Catholicism has always fascinated me and though i feel no compulsion to pray in front of statues of long dead saints i've never heard of, i do feel a sense of peace and quiet in these tucked away places.
  The sign even says so!
This sign right next to it does give one pause, however.
In Portland, Oregon, i found a shrine and botanical garden in the city called the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, which included a grotto carved into the side of a cliff.
As i got closer i could see that the centerpiece is a marble copy of Michelangelo's Pieta and since i don't see me jetting to Rome anytime soon, this might be as close as i get to seeing the real thing.
Alongside the grotto there is the Chapel of Mary:
  That is a chapel?
When i think of a chapel, i think of a wee little building or room, but this place is not wee, not at all. I didn't take any pictures inside, but it was incredible and beautiful in a baroque sorta way.
For $4 you can buy a token to take the elevator to the botanical gardens an the top of the cliff. Yes, that is a 10 story elevator attached to the cliff face by a little walkway. Even if you are a bit nervous about the elevator, it is totally worth the fear and $4 for the view:
There is a glass-walled meditation chapel at the top that allows for the incredible panoramic view. You will just have to believe me that i could see Mt St Helens from here, in the distance just to the right of the tree in the foreground - it was snowy and blended into the sky haze in the picture, but my eyes could see it just fine. There are various paths circling the top of the cliff with various religious art and shrines,
and an extensive collection of rhododendrons
I was a bit sad that the labyrinth was being repaired
  so i couldn't walk it,
but i took solace in sniffing the largest peony i've ever seen.
The Sanctuary is run by the Order of Friars Servants of Mary and was built in the 1920s by Father Ambrose Mayer to fulfill a pledge he made after his mother miraculously recovered from near death in childbirth. In the middle of the botanical gardens is the Servite monastery with an award-winning rose garden. It was lovely and made for a restful afternoon.
But you know this is a Niki adventure, so there had to be something weird, right?
The Grotto is also home to the most disturbing statue, ever:
I get that it is supposed to be a celebration of the sacred nature of motherhood, but i kept waiting for them to move.
If you find yourself in Portland, i definitely recommend spending some time at the Grotto.

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