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
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" -- and either humorously or
derisively 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.
As an aside, 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
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.
Anyway, 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
making a little public monument to God and His Saints to
forever keep them in people's minds.