The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother, aka The Grotto, is an internationally renowned Catholic sanctuary set amongst 62 acres of botanical gardens in Portland, OR. The heart of the shrine is Our Lady’s Grotto, a rock cave carved into the base of a 110-foot cliff.
More than 300,000 people a year visit this peaceful oasis in the city.
There is no admission charge to see the gardens and structures on the lower level, which covers nearly 20 acres.
The lower level includes The Grotto (cave and plaza), Stations of the Cross, The Chapel of Mary, as well as a Welcome Center/Gift Shop and Visitor Complex.
The Grotto is approximately 30 feet wide, 30 feet deep and almost 50 feet high.
It was carved out of the face of the cliff in 1923. Fr. Ambrose Mayer, founder of The Grotto, placed a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà in the cave in 1946. The statue of the Virgin Mother holding Jesus in her arms is made of Carrara marble.
The Chapel of Mary was built and dedicated in 1955 by Archbishop Edward Howard, DD, and was designed by Luther Dugan. On the north side is a 110 foot bell tower, crowned with a gold dome and cross.
The bas-relief over the bronze doors and marble entrance to the Chapel portray the Baptism of Christ.
Inside, the chapel seats 500 people. Warm marble walls, Arizona sandstone floors, woodwork of Korina, Swedish marble, mosaics, graceful statues and murals embrace all who enter. The paintings on the walls and ceilings are the work of Jose De Soto. He has painted churches in Europe and the US. The side walls are the Via Matris. They depict different moments in the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
But wait my children, there’s more.
The Upper Level Gardens at The Grotto are 110 feet above The Grotto’s Plaza. As there are no walking paths to the upper gardens, to visit the upper level each visitor must purchase an elevator token for $5.
The Upper Level Gardens are possibly the best kept secret in Portland as well as one of its largest green spaces, so I bought a magic token…
…and entered the disappointing windowless elevator that included a very creepy recorded introduction that welcomed me to the upper level.
The Grotto Meditation Chapel, built in 1991, rises from the north face of Rocky Butte and provides a panoramic vista of the Columbia River, Mt. St. Helens and on a clear day even Mt. Rainier may be visible. It is 1,500 square feet in size and built of polished granite and glass walls.
The cliffside glass exterior of the Meditation Chapel with its lighted cross offers a dramatic view which can be seen by southbound travelers on Interstate 205 and the airport.
At the top of the north face of Rocky Butte, The Grotto has 62-acres of manicured gardens and walking paths.
A little Sorrow, a little Joy.
A hipster dad amongst the firs.
The Monastery is home to the Servite Friars and was built in 1936. It can accommodate up to twelve priests and brothers (no sista’s allowed).
The rock exterior is sandstone from Washington State.
The Peace Garden has been a part of The Grotto’s upper level since 1989 and covers one and half acres.
Incorporated into the landscaping are the Mysteries of the Rosary.
They are depicted in individual bronze plaques grouped into the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries.
There’s also a Labyrinth.
Via Matris is dedicated to Mary and showcases 34 wood carvings that depict particular events in the life Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The wood carvings are the work of Professor Heider of Pietralba, Italy.
They were originally carved from white pine but had been painted over at some point.
They have since been restored to their natural wood state and placed in new housings.
A pair of sorrowful angels…
…watch over the path to St. Anne’s Chapel.
This little chapel-like building honors St. Anne, the mother of Mary.
Built in 1934 to house the Blessed Sacrament during the first United States Marian Congress…
…it continued to serve as a chapel until the Chapel of Mary was built on the lower level. It now houses numerous Madonna paintings from many countries.
Don’t call him Assisi just because he loves animals.
This Lithuanian Shrine was dedicated in 1963 to those who struggled for the freedom of that country fighting for liberty during World War II.
Our Lady of Czestochowa Polish Shrine contains a replica of the icon popularly known as the Black Madonna.
The icon, depicting Mary and her child Jesus, darkened from the soot of candles and incense over the centuries, bears scars of vandalism from the fifteenth century. A pilgrimage destination for hundreds of years, the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland continues to draw countless pilgrims today. The icon’s origins and early history are steeped in legend, attributing the authorship to St. Luke the Evangelist. Critical studies have dated the image back to the fourteenth century. Battles won, territories protected, and countless healings have all been credited to prayer before the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Heading back down to the lower level…
…the 14 Stations of The Cross are definitely worth checking out. Set in shrines of tufa stone, surrounded by trees, flowers and ferns, they were erected along two rising paths at the base of the cliff. The volcanic rock used in construction of the Stations was from Battle Ground, Washington.
The Grotto is one of best kept secrets in Portland and should definitely be on your list of places to see the next time you visit.