Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Crystal Shrine Grotto

So I've made it back from Memphis, TN. It was a relaxing, lazy trip for the most part...discounting the 14 hour drive, of course.

Ate bbq at Corky's, saw Beale Street and visited the Civil Rights Museum located in the hotel where Martin Luther King was shot and killed. But probably the most memorable site I visited was the most wacky.

We were staying in Germantown, a suburb a few minutes outside the city of Memphis. Miss L was driving us down Poplar Ave into the downtown area when she suddenly declared, "I need to make a pit-stop."

She turned us into the Memorial Park Cemetery. I was confused at first, because this really seemed to be an odd place to stop at just to use the restroom. Were we paying respects to a family member I wasn't aware of, or perhaps visiting the resting place of some Memphis luminary? I later found out Sam Phillips, the record producer most noted for discovering Elvis, is buried at Memorial Park but our little stop had nothing to do with him.

Miss L drove us slowly through the hills of the cemetery, finally stopping at an odd site. I saw a small, man-made pond surrounded by plants, trees and sculptures. This in and of itself is not that odd for a cemetery, but the other sites certainly are.

grotto lake

Exterior of the Crystal Shrine Grotto

We were at the Crystal Shrine Grotto, an odd piece of environmental folk art created by Senor Dionicio Rodriquez in the 1930's. After the pond, the next most prominent object is this massive tree a nearby plaque tells us is a reproduction of Abraham's Oak, created "entirely of concrete, reinforced with steel and copper bar as to insure its existence for many centuries to come".

stone tree

Abraham's Oak

Tucked away on the other side of the concrete oak rests the entrance to a man-made cavern. A little eerie at first going inside, but it was nice cool escape from the 100 degree temperatures outside.

most beautiful head

Immediately inside is a plaque, declaring Jesus as "The Most Beautiful Head in History". I've never thought of Jesus in quite that way, but I understand the sentiment. The cavern itself is not large, but could comfortably fit about twenty people or so. It seemed to be made in the same way as the concrete oak outside, with stones like quartz and other semi-precious stones worked into the concrete to give the cavern a slight glimmering effect. Deeper inside the cave we found ten sculptures of biblical scenes, each created by different artists, the most recent created in 1979. Some are quite realistic while the more recent works are bit abstracted.



My camera and the dim lighting didn't get along well, so these shots don't really do the interior much justice. I'm not particularly religious, but I still came away with an odd peaceful feeling after visiting this place. It's kind of a weird testament to the feeling religion can bring to someone. It's also quite a wacky thing to have in a cemetery, and would almost seem more at home in a place like New Orleans or even the South West. But it's in Memphis, and it is well worth stopping at if you manage to find yourself in that part of the U.S.

But my travels are now over and life returns to normal. Back to work, back to reviews and hopefully a little writing before classes start up again on the 27th.


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