You don’t need to go far or spend much money for a peaceful getaway. In Portland, The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother, which is popularly known as The Grotto, is the perfect place to immerse yourself in an environment where you can be still and feel inspired.
The Grotto is a Catholic shrine that’s dedicated to Mary, Our Sorrowful Mother. But you don’t need to be Catholic or associated with any kind of faith to be welcome. Regardless of your beliefs, it’s a must-see in Portland, especially if you’re looking for some quiet solitude and/or just need a place to unwind.
It’s free to visit the lower level of The Grotto, where you can see the alter up close and sit in the pews underneath towering fir trees. The altar is housed in a cave that was carved out of the 110-foot basalt cliffside.
Although there were other people around, I took some time to close my eyes, feel the slight breeze and listen to the birds chirping up in the trees.
The day I visited, there was a mass about to take place in the chapel on site, but I was able to pop in for a few minutes to see the inside.
There’s so much more to The Grotto than what’s free, though. For a small fee of $6 – which you should totally spend – you’ll get a token that will allow you to get past a turn site and make it up an elevator that takes you to the upper level gardens. When I got up to the top, it felt like I was had reached the entrance to some sort of enchanted forest.
It’s also kind of like an outdoor museum because there are also a lot of things to look at, including a couple of shrines and some sculptures.
The highlight of the upper level for me, though, was the meditation chapel. Of the 2+ hours I spent at The Grotto, the biggest chunk of my time was dedicated to the meditation chapel. From the outside, it looks like a futuristic building.
But the inside is even better.
I fell in love with the panoramic view of Portland from up there. You can also see airplanes flying into PDX from the chapel, and I and hung around long enough to count at least six airplanes land. There were probably more, but I was just so enamored by everything else I could see from up top.
An interesting tidbit of history about The Grotto is that it was created by Father Ambrose Mayer. When he was a young boy, his mother nearly died after giving birth to his sister. He prayed for his mom and promised that if she lived, he would take on a big project for the church. His mom and sister made it, and work on The Grotto began in 1923.
In 1924, the first mass and dedication of the sanctuary drew 3,000 people.
For more about the history of The Grotto, click here.
Every year, The Grotto draws 300,000 visitors. You should be one of them, too 🙂
The Grotto is located at:
8840 NE Skidmore Street
Portland, OR 97220
For more information about The Grotto, click here.