Yesterday, hub and I toured the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama. We got a VIP tour from Brother Christopher complete with attending Sext at St. Bernard Abbey and lunch with the monks. It was beautiful. We've seen the Grotto before, and were amazed once again at Brother Joseph's handiwork. The food was delicious (we cheated all day) and we bought a loaf of their famous bread. There are several goodies homemade by the monks for sale in the Grotto gift shop. Do not miss them. Brother Christopher and I knew each other from way back in our Parisian days, and it was good to catch up with an old friend. Upon leaving, he recommended we take a quick trip down the road to visit the Shrine of The Most Blessed Sacrament. Oh, a detour you say? You don't have to ask us twice.
We had no idea what we were about to see. In Hanceville, Alabama, population just under 3500, there sits an amazing castle, grotto and sanctuary. Driving down the little road lined with white fencing, I felt as if I was in Lexington, Kentucky. Our mouths both dropped when we rounded the curve and spotted the Shrine. It's a sight to behold. Tucked away in the Alabama hills is an enormous cathedral inspired by the Franciscan churches in Italy. We were stunned. How could we have never heard about this place?
We spent over two hours touring the Church and the grounds, which included a grotto, a crypt, a Eucharist garden, and a castle that housed the gift shop and a dining hall. There is no fee for visiting this Shrine. It's completely FREE! They even provide coverings for you to enter the Church if you're wearing shorts like we were. It is one of the most peaceful places I've ever been. We lit a candle for the Bahamas, and prayed for our loved ones. What a great way to start our week of signings.
If you've never visited these gems, make it a priority on your next trip up or down I-65. It will delight your senses and nourish your soul. We loved every square foot of these sacred places, and we got our exercise in to help with the carbs we consumed at lunch. We recommend this particular detour to everyone, and you might just see One Thing Missing in the gift shops!
LOTS of pictures, it's just too fantastic. You simply must not miss these two treasures in Alabama. Take the divine detour!