Friday, July 20, 2012

Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos

Trying to salvage a trip that had been marginal to date, we headed west of St. Louis to Eureka, Missouri and home of the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos. It was good and bad news. The good news is that we had the place entirely to ourselves. The bad news was that is was too hot to really linger and get the full effect.

We wandered around taking pictures of the various grottos and admiring the handiwork. At the very end, while looking at the shrine of the Black Madonna under and open air building, I saw a sign on the gift shop that said it was open but if locked, ring the buzzer. It was locked, so I did. Out of a nearby shack popped a monk who cheerfully welcomed us and ushered us into the gift shop. There in the cool air conditioning, we chatted for a long while and I learned more about the grottos.

In 1927, Brother Bronislaus from Poland immigrated to the area and for 23 years, worked on building these grottos and the shrine to the Black Madonna all by his lonesome until the day he died. The monk who told me this joined in 1962 when there were over 100 other monks and he was still there though today, there were less than five monks running the place. The monk I talked too, who coincidentally wasn't under some vow of silence, sounded pretty discouraged about the direction of the Catholic faith and didn't seem hopeful that there would be anymore monks to take care of this place after his generation died off. It will be a great shame if that happens and the place falls into ruins.

The grottos were all made from local tiff rock and were extremely intricate. I have dozens of pictures of various closeups of gems, sea shells and various other items nestled within the various cavities in each grotto but I haven't posted them all. You will just have to go see them yourself. I skipped quite a few open areas that I could see from a distance but didn't have the heart to hike too in the heat and I missed the Nativity Grotto in the process which seemed like one of the more spectacular ones from the online picture of it. But that is okay because I really would like to go back and spend more time there when the temperature is more seasonable.

Assumption Grotto

Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto

Gethsemane Grotto

St Peter, James & John Grotto

St. Joseph's Grotto

St. Francis Grotto

Overview of the area that contained most of the grottos
Close up detail. The monk told me that lots of the shells and gems found on the grottos were brought back from fellow brothers on missionary work.

More detail

Stone pot and flowers

Shrine to the Black Madonna


Vince said...

""""""it is thought"""""""" that the source of the Black Madonnas is north Africa. Big shock eh. But further the thinking goes that the plethora of them as painting in teh east and the statues in the West marks the divide in north Africa between the Egyptian and the west. Where with the spread of Islam the relics were moved. This argument is from artistic style where the older icons are different to the usual as with Ravenna marking a Greek and the Black Madonnas, Alexandria.

edifice rex said...

This reminds me a lot of the Ave Maria grotto in Cullman, AL. which is not very far from here. I believe I put some pictures up of it when Jack and I visited there last year. I really enjoyed it.

warren said...

That's so cool! I am glad you posted pics because words could not do it justice!

Murf said...

She's not black at all. Very disappointing. I was hoping for some good cheesy fun like black Santas...although we should probably say African-American Madonna and African-American Santa. :-)

PhilippinesPhil said...

Great pics.. love religious art.

Woody said...

You were getting real close. Another 57 miles to the west and you could have walleyed in the river with a ice cold beverage to beat the heat.