Thursday, November 9, 2023

Portland Grotto is a beloved shrine, a place of peace, prayer, beauty

The Grotto in Portland, Oregon, is a place of meditation, prayer and
reflection, in lovely gardens surrounded by sculpture and beauty.





This bird's eye view of Portland may be enjoyed
from a viewpoint in the Grotto's upper garden.
A stroll past St. Anne's Chapel, red
at left, under a majestic canopy of
trees native to the northwest.

100 YEARS AGO, in 1923, a visionary priest  determined to create a garden oasis in the middle of a bustling city in the Pacific Northwest.  Father Ambrose Mayer was intent on keeping a promise he made to God as a worried child in a parish church in Ontario, Canada.

Strolling the sunny Grotto, from left: Christene
"Cookie" Meyers, Kira Hill and Bruce Keller.
His mother was gravely ill and not expected to live. The bereft boy ran to the church, praying and pleading for her recovery. She lived.  And years later, as a priest, Mayer was sent by his Servite superiors to minister in Portland, Oregon. where he fulfilled his promise.

Father Ambrose Mayer:
he fulfilled his promise,
created an elegant shrine. 

IN PORTLAND, a then quiet  Oregon town on the Columbia River, Father Mayer began looking for a piece of property to create something wonderful, to thank God for hearing his prayer and saving his mother's life.

A replica of the famous
Pieta is part of the beauty.

The young priest found land ideal for his intent to thank God, and honor Mary, mother of Jesus. His vow to do something great for the Church materialized in a gorgeous art-filled garden and shrine, now a beloved grotto, hewn from the base of a dramatic 110-foot basalt cliff. There an altar was constructed and eventually a replica of Michelangelo's famed Pieta was placed. Thousands come from around the world since its 1924 dedication as "the Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother," by Portland Archbishop Alexander Christie. It is an inspiring, calm place to meditate, stroll, contemplate and enjoy the grounds, maintained by volunteers and people of faith. Weddings, celebrations, concerts and special holiday shows and light displays endear it to legions.

The Grotto Cave and Outdoor Altar host masses and other events; special
arrangements may be made for weddings and celebrations. This photo
shows the basalt cliff where Father Mayer envisioned an altar.

AN ELEVATOR takes visitors form the lower to the upper garden and a spectacular platform for viewing the city. Sculpture and art from around the world reflect a global yearning for peace, beauty and honoring the benefits of mindful meditation. The shrine became a National Sanctuary in 1983, thanks to Mayer's inspiration and the collaboration of architects, gardeners, believers.  All are welcome.

THE GROTTO's  international fame is for its artistic merging of art, religious icons, flowers, trees, ponds and welcoming paths to enjoy statuary and in a joyful setting

The Portland landmark, at North 85th Street and Sandy Boulevard, is one of the world's few to combine museum, gardens and memorials. Among those honored are John F. Kennedy, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Jude, St. Francis and many other saints. It is a rejuvenating, art-filled anchor in the city's life.  

A free, short video in the Visitor Center gives a good overview to the ambitious project and its many collaborators. 

 A gift shop contains religious artifacts and memorabilia.  

St Francis and his animal friends attract many
seeking peace and solitude. It is one of the eye
catching works of art enjoyed by global visitors.
The place shineswith festivelights and  mass is held, weather and time of year allowing.  Mass is usually held spring through autumn most Sundays, at 10 a.m. and noon. The noon mass is sometimes held in the outdoor Grotto Plaza. Masses are also offered for special events, such as a St. Peregrine mass,  first Saturdays at noon. Masses are also celebrated in the Chapel of Mary, an old church on the lower level. The outdoor grotto area hosts celebrations. Check the website for more information:; 503 254-7371;

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers are all aboard
at King's Cross Station in London, for train travel in the UK
UP NEXT: Trains are as much a part of British life as afternoon tea, the royal family and Big Ben. We take to the rails next, with trips to York, London and Oxford aboard the well run British train system. What's not to love about the world's oldest rail system, expertly run, on time, and dependable -- even when occasional strikes occur. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, performance, nature, family and more:


  1. San Francisco GardenersNovember 10, 2023 at 1:32 PM

    Beautiful oasis which we visit whenever in Portland.

  2. We happened upon this lovely, serene place last month. Didn't know the history which is so interesting.

  3. Love the serenity of this place-- comforting like the sea.

  4. Bay Area Portland RegularsNovember 14, 2023 at 12:25 PM

    Very happy to see this well deserved story.