The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is one of the largest outdoor shrines in North America.
Located 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is owned by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Its 200-acre campus welcomes more than a million visitors a year and offers a variety of religious and devotional programs.
The shrine is named after a story that dates back to 352 A.D. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to a childless, wealthy Roman couple in a dream on a hot summer night. She told them she wanted a church to be built in her honor in Rome, and that the site that she had chosen for it would be covered with a blanket of snow.
The same night, she appeared to Pope Liberius in a dream and also told him of her desire. The next morning, Rome awoke to snow on Esquiline Hill even though the weather was extremely warm.The summer snow was proclaimed a miracle and the couple took It as a sign to use their wealth to help build the church. The Basilica of St. Mary Major was built on the site and still stands today as the center for worship to Our Lady of the Snows.
The devotion to Our Lady of the Snows was introduced to the Midwest in 1941 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, primarily through the work of two Roman Catholic priests: Father Paul Schulte, known as the Flying Priest of the Arctic, and Father Edwin J. Guild, the founder and first director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Father Schulte developed a deep personal devotion to Our Lady of the Snows while serving Eskimo missions in the Arctic.
Since its founding in 1958, the shrine has grown to include a church, visitors center, conference center, hotel, gift shop, restaurant, chapel, outdoor altar and amphitheater, several gardens, a prayer walk, a Way of the Cross, and a grotto.
Nine devotional areas are located on the grounds of the Shrine, including a reproduction of the Grotto at Lourdes in France. Don’t miss the dramatic Millenium Spire, an 85-foot-tall, stainless steel structure that overlooks the shrine’s outdoor amphitheater.
Complimentary trolley tours are offered to visitors, and an introductory video is shown in the visitors center. Admission to the shrine is free and visitors of all faiths are welcome.
The shrine is located two miles east of Interstate 255 at Exit 17-A.
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Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.