Hidden in Portland, Oregon is The Grotto, a beautiful shrine and sanctuary to the Virgin Mary carved out of a cliff side.

The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother, known as The Grotto, can be found in northeast Portland. A ministry of the Servite Friars of Mary, it covers over 60 acres set at the foot and atop of a 110 feet tall basalt cliff.

The Grotto was founded by Father Ambrose Mayer, a member of the Servite Order from Ontario. As a child, he prayed for his mother who laid near-death after the birth of his sister, promising he would dedicate his life to great works for the Church if she recovered.

When she recovered he joined the seminary and in 1918 was sent to minister to the Archdiocese of Portland as the first Servite Friar. 5 years later, he discovered land originally owned by the Union Pacific Railroad Country and thought it perfect to fulfill his promise.

With a down payment of $3,000 and funding the rest from a national campaign, he purchased the land and began his project to build a natural cathedral. Pope Pius XI formally approved the construction, offering an apostolic blessing to anyone who “in any way or measure, show their good will and assist in erecting the Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother in Portland.”

Starting in September of 1923, a 50 foot high cave was carved out of the 110 foot high cliff. Inside a replica of Michelangelo’s famous Pieta was placed, along with bronze angels hoisting lit torches, and an altar carved from natural rock.

In 1929, an elevator was built to take pilgrims to the top of the cliff, where they will find a small chapel to Saint Anne – the mother of Mary, and a meditation hall. The sanctuary has several thousand feet of trails to walk, including the Stations of the Cross set through botanical gardens.

In 1983, The Grotto was named a National Sanctuary. Since then, millions have visited and over 300,000 continue to do so each year.

You can visit the official website for The Grotto here.

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