At The Grotto: A retreat in the city

The Monestary at The Grotto

T  h  e     G  r  o  t  t  o

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”  

                             ***Henry David Thoreau***

One of my most favorite places in the world is The Grotto.  It is a magical place where spirituality and nature meet in a tranquil atmosphere of well-tended gardens, natural areas and man-made splendor.

The Grotto is the popular name of The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother. It is a spectacular 62-acre Catholic shrine and botanical garden located in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.

 “The Grotto strives to provide a welcoming presence and a

beautiful environment conducive to peace, quiet, and spiritual inspiration. The Grotto offers understanding, compassion, support and hope through a variety of ministries including counseling, education, spiritual direction and liturgical celebrations. The Grotto endeavors to serve all people.” ( Grotto website)

Although The Grotto is an internationally renowned Catholic shrine, it provides a spiritual and peaceful retreat for people of all faiths and for those that have none at all.  It truly is a hidden gem in the city, just minutes from downtown. To walk these grounds one would be hard-pressed to notice this fact.  The Grotto is also a stunning botanical garden filled with fir trees, rhododendrons and other native plants.

The Lower level

The lower level contains 20 acres of natural woodland. There is a solemn peacefulness here. A certain quietness that evokes a sense that you are in quite another world. Here I feel safe and protected by the tall pines, their spicy scent filling my senses; bringing back forgotten childhood memories and putting a spring in my step.

I have walked here often in this wild and untamed section of The Grotto.  I admire the way the land is cared for. The way some would say God intended, certainly the way Mother nature intended.  Fallen trees overgrown with brush and leaf litter are sure signs of natural land stewardship.

Happy Jesus

Our Lady’s Grotto

At the center of it all is the shrine Our Lady’s Grotto, a rock cave carved into the base of a 110-foot cliff.  A life-size marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà has been carefully placed at its center.
The church at The Grotto
The elevator
The  elevator amongst the treetops is definitely a surreal experience. As we climb the 110 feet up the imposing cliff walls, a reassuring voice of soft muted tones speaks of what awaits us at the top.
The Upper Level Gardens are simply lovely. It is a whole other world that  seems pure and untouched by the modern world below.  There is a sense of serenity that prevails. I feel closer to nature; a certain connectedness that I can only feel outside amongst the living earth. A visit does good for my soul and it is truly a tonic for the heart as well.
 The manicured gardens and walking paths wind around the magnificent grounds.  There are chapels, statues, native plants and a wide variety of trees.   They say the upper level gardens are possibly the best kept secret in Portland as well as one of its largest green spaces. It is easy to forget you are in the middle of the city.
The Labyrinth
The Statues
St. Jude
Saint Francis
Angel in the sun
The Meditation Chapel

One of the highlights of a trip to the upper gardens includes one of the most spectacular views in town, The cliff side Meditation Chapel is truly something to see. Made of polished granite and glass walls it certainly makes quite an impression.

This beautiful building showcases an amazing view of the Columbia River Valley, the Cascades and Mt. St. Helens. It is no wonder that this building has received both national and international architectural awards.

St. Anne’s Chapel

This charming little red house once served as a chapel and it honors Saint Anne, the mother of Mary.  Built in 1934 it now houses numerous Madonna paintings from many countries.
The View
Spectacular views are just one of the reasons why this place is so special. On a clear day you can almost see tomorrow or at least a mountain or two.
Thanks for accompanying me on this tour of one of my most favorite spots in the world. There is much to see and what I have shown here is but just a sampling of what this hidden gem in the city has to offer.
The Grotto is a place for everyone, of all faiths and beliefs. The atmosphere is gentle and accepting. I find solace here. Its quiet natural beauty is a perfect spot for reflection and meditation or a tranquil walkabout.
If you ever happen to find yourself in Portland stop and visit, you’ll
 be glad you did.  
Wishing You Peace and Happiness,

Strawberryindigo.

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