The Esquiline is located on the campus of The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, a Catholic shrine that attracts a multitude of visitors of all faiths from across the nation.
There’s a reason why you’ll find the shrine popping up on different lists of things to do in St. Louis and the Belleville area: it’s an eye-catching mix of soothing natural beauty and stunning manmade additions. With well-marked walking paths and peaceful, sacred spaces, it’s an excellent way to spend the day nourishing your spirit while getting your blood pumping.
Here are 5 things you won’t want to miss when you visit the shrine.
1. Main Shrine and Amphitheatre
The Main Shrine is rich with symbolism. For example, notice the shape rising from the top of the structure — it isn’t simply a piece of abstract art. It’s a 50-foot “M” to represent Mary, Mother of Jesus.
While there, you’ll also be able to see up close the 16-foot statue of Mary, whose gown is designed in the shape of a calla lily to represent purity.
Visitors to the Main Shrine can enjoy the magnificent structure and the natural outdoor amphitheater that surrounds it. Special outdoor masses are held the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m.
2. Millenium Spire
Located a short walk away from the Main Shrine, the Millennium Spire curls up towards the heavens. You’ll be able to easily see it from the amphitheater as it sits atop a hill overlooking the area, but don’t worry — it’s hard to miss it, no matter where you start out. The spire stands at a majestic 85 feet tall.
The Millennium Spire was built in honor of Pope John Paul II’s call for “a new springtime of Christianity” as the new millennium approached. To give you some background information, at the turn of the 21st Century, the Roman Catholic Church was celebrating the Great Jubilee 2000.
“On the occasion of this great feast, a warm invitation to share our joy goes out to the followers of other religions, as it does to those who are far from faith in God,” Pope John Paul wrote at the time. “As brothers and sisters in the one human family, may we cross together the threshold of a new millennium that will demand effort and responsibility on the part of all.”
At the base of the Millennium Spire, votive candles represent thousands of prayers and special intentions that people have submitted for their loved ones or themselves.
3. Walking Paths
Walking paths crisscross the shrine grounds, weaving through scenic pastoral land and breathtaking vistas.
If you’re visiting specific sacred spaces at The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, it’s easy to find your way to where you want to go. But it can also be enjoyable simply to wander or take a brisk walk around the grounds. It’ll boost your heart rate while you take in the sights and enjoy the fresh, clean air.
4. The Annunciation Garden, Mothers Prayer Walk, and Fathers Memorial Wall
The Annunciation Garden sculptures depict the Angel Gabriel appearing before Mary with the news that she would become the mother of Jesus. It features a reflection pool, four large bells cast in Germany, and a calming fountain.
It’s located at the highest point of the shrine grounds, rewarding visitors with a sweeping view of the acres and acres of wooded grounds.
Next to the Annunciation Garden, you’ll find the Mothers Prayer Walk. This area is a touching tribute to mothers everywhere, with bronze plaques stretching in curved rows commemorating individual mothers.
Near the Mothers Prayer Walk is the Fathers Memorial Wall. Much like the Mothers Prayer Walk, it has bronze memorial plaques honoring all fathers, as well as individual fathers whose names line the walls.
Both places are serene, quiet settings in which you can take a moment to reflect.
5. Restaurant, Visitors Center, and Church of Our Lady of the Snows
When you’re ready to head indoors, you have a lot of options. You can attend mass in the Church of Our Lady of the Snows, enjoy a meal at the Shrine Restaurant, or check out the visitors center.
There’s also a gift shop where you can purchase Catholic religious gifts and Fair Trade items that support people in need.
And don’t forget, there are more places you can visit at The National Shrine not listed above, including Guadalupe Hill, Lourdes Grotto, Agony Garden, Way of the Cross, and Resurrection Garden. To learn more before your trip, visit the shrine online.
The Esquiline and The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows
The special relationship between The Esquiline and The National Shrine goes beyond just geography. It was built on shrine grounds by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to provide a living community for older adults that nurtures spiritual, physical, social, and intellectual wellness.
While The Esquiline is a Life Plan Community (or CCRC) with Catholic roots, it’s open to people of all faiths. If you’d like to learn more, contact us or schedule a tour. We’d love to show you around our neck of the woods!