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.
|Our Lady of Sorrows 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.|
|Stone pot and flowers|
|Shrine to the Black Madonna|