Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Roadside Shrines


All throughout Europe and Mexico, and in the Catholic areas of the United States and Canada, one may encounter shrines built along roads and in other highly visible places. They can be built by cities on public property, or by business owners and other private citizens on private property but for the public good. They are built for the general glory of God, or for a variety of more particular purposes, such as in gratitude to God and His Saints for certain blessings, as memorials to some great civic event in which God intervened, or as memorials to the dead, as is quite common along highways in the United States. They are often built to beseech God and His Saints: for example, a city that sits next to a volcano might build a shrine to St. Agatha, who is invoked against volcanic eruptions, or a person who is afraid of violent storms might build a shrine to St. Barbara, who is invoked against such inclement weather.

a "Bathtub Mary"These roadside shrines can be very simple or quite elaborate, and they can come in many styles, such as simple wooden crosses, niches in walls, small towers, grotto configurations, or even very tiny chapels that hold images and the means to light votive candles. They can be made of almost any material, and some are relatively unadorned, while others are painted, or tiled with mosaics in exquisite ways. Grotto-style shrines have even been built out of discarded iron bathtubs half-buried in the ground and painted, with their backsides often plastered and adorned with stone, tiles, colored glass, or shells -- a common thing seen in the Eastern United States -- see picture at right. When these shrines are Marian in focus, they're often referred to colloquially as "Bathtub Marys" or as "Marys-In-the-Half-Shell" In Italy, Marian roadside shrines are referred to as "Madonnelle" ("Madonnella" in the singular), and there are many of them.

There are even underwater shrines -- statues set up in the sea to be visited by divers. There's the "Christ of the Abyss", off the coast of Italy,  near San Fruttuoso -- and there are two copies of this statue, one off the coast of Dry Rocks in Key Largo, Florida, and one in Grenada. There's Our Lady of Cirkewwa, in that Maltese city's harbor. In the Bien Unido Barrier Reef in the Philippines there's a shrine to Our Lady and the Divine Infant Jesus. There was a St. Francis of Paola statue in the waters off the coast of Southern Italy's town of Paola, in Calabria -- but the 3.5 ton statue mysteriously went missing in 2012.

Below is a sampling of wayside shrines to inspire you to keep this Catholic tradition alive and to give you ideas as to how to do so. These pictures come from all over the world -- Italy, Spain, Poland, Mexico, the United States... If you have land, if you own a home or business, consider making a little public monument to God and His Saints to forever keep them in people's minds.

ItalyItaly (Sicily)Italy (Sicily)
Italy (Sicily)Italy (Sicily)Italy

Texas, United StatesAlabama, United StatesColorado, United States (roadside memorial for one who's died at this site)

Before ending this page, I must share this picture of soldiers taking a moment at a roadside shrine to honor Our Lord:

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