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The Grotto

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The Grotto

The Grotto
The National Sanctuary
of our Sorrowful Mother
The Grotto Shrine, 2012
Type Shrine, garden, sanctuary
Location 8840 NE Skidmore St
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Area 62 acres (25 ha)
Created 1924
Founder Ambrose Mayer
Visitors 200,000 (annually)[1]
Open Archdiosese of Portland, Oregon
Designation National Sanctuary

The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother, popularly known as The Grotto, is a Roman Catholic outdoor shrine and sanctuary located in the Madison South district of Portland, Oregon, United States. Constructed in 1924, the sanctuary covers 62 acres (25 ha),[2] and is set both at the foot of and on top of a 110-foot cliff.

A large meditation hall whose main chamber is at clifftop level extends down to the foot of the cliff; the cross on the hall is visible many miles away. In addition to a church, there are several thousand feet of trails, including a trail of the Stations of the Cross, along which the faithful may pass in contemplation through botanical gardens.


  • History 1
    • Vandalism 1.1
  • Features 2
    • Sculptures 2.1
  • Events 3
  • Monastery 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The Grotto was established in 1924 by Friar Ambrose Mayer, a native of Ontario, Canada, who was sent to the United States where he was a Servite pastor for the Archdiosese of Portland, Oregon.[3] Upon moving to Portland, Mayer found acreage located outside Northeast Portland that was at the time owned by the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and had been put up for sale to be developed into residential property. Mayer made a downpayment of $3,000 and purchased the property in 1923.[3][4]

Mayer envisioned The Grotto as a natural cathedral, and construction began in September 1923. A cave was carved out of the 110-foot basalt cliff, and a statue of Mary holding Jesus's crucified body was installed.[3] Several years later, a marble recreation of Michaelangelo's Pietà was also installed. Three thousand people gathered for the first mass at the Grotto on May 29, 1924.

In 1955, the Chapel of Mary was dedicated on the grounds, and in 1983 the Grotto was designated as a National Sanctuary.[3] The grounds of the Grotto include 62 acres[5] of pathways, forest, and an upper-level botanical garden situated above the cliff, which are accessed through an elevator built against the cliff wall.[6] The upper botanical gardens also provide expansive views of the Columbia River Valley, the Cascade Mountains, and Mount Saint Helens.[7]


On November 30, 2012, unknown vandals broke into the grounds and vandalized multiple statues.[8] The heads of St. Joseph and a baby Jesus statue were beheaded, and another statue of the Virgin Mary was toppled over and also had its head removed.[4] All of the statues were made of centuries-old Carrara marble.[8] Two angel statues were also damaged.[8]


An elevator leads to the upper level botanical gardens located above the cliff.[7]
Plaza Level
  • Chapel of Mary[9]
  • The Grotto[10]
  • Stations of the Cross[11]
  • statues[12]
Upper Level Gardens[13][14]
  • Meditation Chapel[15]
  • shrines[16]
    • Lithuanian Wayside Shrine
    • Our Lady of Czestochowa Polish Shrine
    • Dambana, Filipino Faith Shrine
  • Peace Garden[17]
  • Mysteries of the Rosary[18]
  • Monastery[19]
  • Rose Garden[20]
  • St. Anne's Chapel[21]
  • Via Matris[22]
Saint Joseph sculpture at the Grotto.


The Smithsonian Institution has 23 statues and memorials registered at The Grotto:[23]

  • Glorious Mysteries
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial
  • Joyful Mysteries
  • Kneeling Angels
  • Lithuanian Wayside Shrine
  • Marilyn Moyer Meditation Chapel Fountain
  • Our Lady of Lourdes
  • Peace Pole
  • Pietà with Two Angels
  • Sacred Heart
  • Sacred Heart Shrine
  • Saints in Niches
  • Sorrowful Mysteries
  • Sorrows and Joys of St. Joseph
  • St. Joseph
  • St. Jude Shrine
  • St. Philip Benizi
  • Stations of the Cross
  • Statue of Mary
  • The Assumption of Our Blessed Mother
  • The Calvary Statue
  • The Christus
  • Via Matris


There are various events at The Grotto throughout the year, as well as meetings and seminars. Every December The Grotto puts up a huge light display along its trails. The first annual "Festival of Lights" first took place in 1988[2] and lasted for ten nights. It has since been expanded in scope and duration, and the 2012 festival ran for 37 days. Besides the light displays, there are nightly concerts, caroling, and other family-oriented entertainment. More than 63,000 people attended the 2011 festival.[2]


The Grotto's 1936 monastery houses friars of the Servite Order.[24]


  1. ^ "The Grotto". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Bingham, Larry (November 23, 2012). "Grotto festival grows but preserves mission".  
  3. ^ a b c d "Our History". The Grotto. Retrieved October 31, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Graves, James (December 30, 2013). "Sanctuary provides refuge for seekers of peace, consolation". Our Sunday Visitor. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  5. ^ Gerald, Paul (2012). Peaceful Places: Portland: 103 Tranquil Sites in the Rose City and Beyond. Menasha Ridge Press. p. 64-65.  
  6. ^ "Spring at the Grotto. Have You Taken the Elevator Up?". The Grotto. October 20, 2015. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Burgess, Ann Carol; Rutenberg, Linda (2003). Secret Portland, Oregon: The Unique Guidebook to Portland's Hidden Sites. ECW Press. pp. 105–106.  
  8. ^ a b c Staff (November 30, 2012). "Religious statues beheaded at Portland Grotto". KGW. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  9. ^ Chapel of Mary
  10. ^ The Grotto
  11. ^ Stations of the Cross
  12. ^ Statues
  13. ^ Upper Level Gardens
  14. ^ Map Upper Gardens
  15. ^ The Grotto Meditation Chapel
  16. ^ Shrines at the Grotto
  17. ^ The Peace Garden
  18. ^ Mysteries of the Rosary
  19. ^ The Monastery
  20. ^ The Rose Garden
  21. ^ St. Anne's Chapel
  22. ^ Via Matris
  23. ^ "Collections Search: The Grotto Portland". The Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  24. ^ "The Monastery". The Grotto. Retrieved September 27, 2014. 

External links

  • The Grotto (official website)
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