This entry is a bit different than ones I have done in the past. This is in regards to my experience with the Black Madonna that stands in the St. Meinrad, Indiana archabbey.
The summer of 2021, I had a pretty rough time with my job. I work in management and had to deal with a lot of stressful issues that had not appeared before in my 17 years of working at this place. It almost broke me. One day after work, I decided to just take a drive. To get away from everything. I have lived here in Southern Indiana for most of my life, minus a few years, and thought I knew the area pretty well, but there was a stretch of highway I never travelled before, or if I did, I did not take note. It’s one of those “lost highways” that no longer serves much of a purpose since the interstate runs parallel to it. But my sense of exploration took hold, so I went down this road. One of the first things I saw that caught my eye was the “Mary Help of Christians” Catholic Church in Mariah Hill, Indiana. I stopped by and admired it’s architecture and the grounds. I did not step inside at that time (I did at a later date and it’s a beautiful church), but this stop inspired me. Remembering there is a monastery in the area, I decided to keep driving and went to St. Meinrad, Indiana.
Saint Meinrad, Indiana is a small town with just a few hundred people living there but is home to one of a few Catholic archabbeys in the world. My first stop in town was to the Monte Cassino shrine Chapel that sits on the outskirts of town. It is such a beautiful chapel (see below).
Built around 150 years ago, this chapel made of local sandstone, is dedicated to Mary and inside the chapel features artwork covering the walls and ceiling. It felt like I just stepped back in time to somewhere in Europe. Truly amazing and I could not believe it was here, in Southern Indiana, just 30 minutes away from my house.
Now this was truly inspiring! Just a side note, ever since this visit, I come to this chapel every week for meditation, reading and prayer practice. It has become a weekly spiritual pilgrimage for me. Now I had to go see the monastery! So I went back into town and found the entrance to the monastery, and WOW, what a sight it was to behold!
Seeing this from the drive way to the grounds was breath taking. You simply do not see buildings like this in the area. I was in awe.
The archabbey serves as a monastery, an educational school as well as a spiritual retreat. I am not going to show pictures of the entire area, but a quick google search will give you a glimpse. On my first initial visit, I just checked out the cathedral that was there. I had quite the feeling walking up to this place. I am a huge fan of architecture, so this was quite the thrill. Once I went into the cathedral, there was a deafening silence. It was so, so quiet. Beautiful I tell you! The cathedral has stained glass everywhere and when the light comes in, it just lights up the place. Artwork is presented in different areas. I had never seen anything like this before. Talk about sensory overload! While walking around, I came upon her……The Black Madonna.
I have heard of Black Madonnas but never realized there was one just down the road from where I live. Now this particular statue is actually a reproduction of the Lady of Einsiedeln. The St. Meinrad archabbey is a sister monastery to the one where the original statue is. But still, what a sight to behold. I know there are a lot of theories and speculation on what the Black Madonna means, and this particular one has played a role in my spiritual path, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.
After this special visit in the summer of 2021, I now travel to the monastery grounds every week. I visit the chapel for sure, and the cathedral I visit every once in awhile (it’s a long walk up to it from the parking lot, and when there is ice and snow on the ground, that can be quite the venture, lol). The grounds also feature various other shrines (a few dedicated to Mary) as well as artwork on various walls in other places. There is also a gift shop that features quite a bit of nice stuff including icons, books, statues, prayer cards, artwork, baked goods, etc… I really recommend everyone stopping by if you are in the area. I have posted an url to their website for those interested:
This off the cuff trip to these places inspired me to do more and ever since then, I go around seeking other churches and temples (Buddhist) to visit. I even got the chance to tour an Eastern Orthodox church in Louisville which was just as inspiring as this original trip was (I didn’t take pictures on that visit, but my love of icons skyrocketed because of that church visit). I also view these trips as homework, as I hope to one day have such a place for those who follow the gnostic path such as myself.