As we left the Skyview Drive-In Movie Theater in Belleville, I knew there was a great possibility that we would actually have to pass right by the final cake I wanted to see that day at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, even though I hadn’t mentioned this cake adventure to Mama Monster. And so as I started to turn the car towards home, I gave Mama Monster the biggest grin I had and hoped she’d be game for a final cake of the day, luckily she was.
The Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is pretty impressive in that it is the largest outdoor shrine in North America (who knew?). In 1958 the Belleville site was chosen and work began on creating a spectacular shrine that would honor Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and allow amble space for all those who wish to come and worship.
The shrine itself derives its name from a legend that dates back to 352 AD when Mary appeared in a dream to a Roman couple and told them to build a church in her honor on the hill that was covered with snow. The next day, August 5th, a super hot day in summer, Esquiline Hill was covered in snow. This was declared a miracle and a few years later a church was built on that location.
Today the National Shrine in Belleville is over 200 acres of lush greenery and fascinating statues that can be viewed either by a driving or a walking tour of the grounds. The location also hosts retreats, services and, when Mama Monster and I visited, a prom – or at least a young person dance of some kind that involved tuxedos and fancy dresses.
And after all that we had seen on our day long adventure, it was calming to drive through the shrine location and take in the natural beauty of the area.
So a little while later, as we crossed the state line back into Missouri with visions of mannequins, movie theaters and massive ketchup bottles reflecting in our rear view mirror, it was good to be back on familiar territory…at least until the next Illinois cake hunt.