Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Grotto: Portland's Very Own Tranquility Bay

It's beautiful, it's peaceful and best of all it's just minutes from downtown Portland.

If you're like me, there are times when you have a crushing need to get away from the maddening crowd if only for a few hours. Maybe you search out that quiet, “special” place to sit and enjoy some meditative thinking time. Or possibly you find peace and tranquility with a meditative walk in an inspirational garden space. If this sounds like you ... there is this place I know of.

It's an internationally-renowned shrine and botanical garden called the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, or better known to those in the Portland area as “The Grotto”. It was developed by the Catholic church but the grounds are open to everyone.

The space is a culmination of 62 acres of meticulously manicured gardens and pathways. The upkeep is an ongoing ministry courtesy of a group of Franciscan Brothers called Sevite Friars who live in a Friary on the grounds.

The shrine is built around the Catholic Churches strong views concerning Mary, the mother of Jesus. At its center, carved into the base of a 100 foot cliff, is this amazing shallow cave. It's known as Our Lady's Grotto where a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta is on display. Even if you don't subscribe to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, this one feature in itself is well worth seeing.

It's as close to the original as some of us may ever get.

A life-size replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta 

The Grotto is literally divided into two levels. There's the lower, commercial plaza level and the upper, garden level.

The Pieta is on the plaza level displayed behind an alter where outdoor masses are held. This level also holds a large chapel for indoor masses, called the Chapel of Mary. A walking trail called the Stations of the Cross surrounds the area. The trail showcases many native northwest plants that can be enjoyed while listening to the quiet whisperings of Gregorian Chant as it echo's through the trees.
The visitors complex which includes a gift shop and conference center can be found on this level as well. There's no fee to wander the grounds.

The upper level, which is located 110 feet above the plaza area, is where you will leave behind the “busyness” of the city and the commercial interests of the Grotto.

With no paths leading to this “heavenly” sanctuary, you'll need to take the elevator. Tickets can be purchased at the site's welcome center. The charge is according to age and will cost only a few dollars at the most.

Stepping through the elevator doors onto the upper level will reveal an eye catching view of one of the largest green spaces and best kept secrets in Portland.

The inspiring landscape of well maintained winding pathways work their way through a canopy of mature trees and manicured botanical gardens. Numerous small chapels and religious artwork are laced along the trail for you to discover.

There are many quiet places along the path. No need to look for them, they will seek you out. The chapels are open and invite you to spend precious moments in reflection and meditation.

Chapel of St. Anne

Majestic panoramic views of the Columbia River Valley and Mount St. Helens can be glimpsed in several locations and are well worth the trip to the top.
The Grotto is a peaceful retreat for those in need of a bit of quiet solitude. Over 300,000 people of many faiths take advantage of this special place each year.
The Grotto is open during the Christmas season. It's a special time that reveals another facet of this precious space. A spectacular display of a multitude of shimmering lights will be sure to put you in the Holiday mood.

You can find out more by going here: The Grotto