Our family recently finished up a month long trip along old Route 66 and saw a lot of amazing things along the way. In addition to iconic landmarks and old business, natural wonders, national parks and more, we could help but notice all the different ways people worship and express their faith in what’s known as the “Bible Belt”.
Route 66 is full of religious landmarks, churches, and religious imagery. Here are some of the ones that were real standouts to us:
On Route 66 in Waggoner, Illinois is the Our Lady of the Highways shrine which has been blessing the road and the motorists who drive it since 1959. The shrine sits on private property however there is a small turnout where motorists can park to view the shrine and pick up a holy card. Southbound motorists will also notice a series of signs along the roadside that recite the “Hail Mary.”
South of Staunton, Route 66 motorists will discover St. Paul Lutheran Church with its large neon cross.
There’s a lot to see in St. Louis including the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis which is the most beautiful church I have ever seen. This cathedral contains one of the largest mosaic collections in the world which took over 80 years to complete. You can get a sneak peek of the mosaics at the church website’s on-line tour.
If you collect Precious Moments figurines, then you’ll want to swing by the Precious Moments Park and chapel, located south of town off US 71 in Carthage, Missouri. Be sure to get out of the car to view this religious park and spend a little time wandering around.
After leaving Carthage, keep your eyes peeled for the Praying Hands in Webb City which stand nearly 32 feet tall on a 40 foot man-made hill.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, it’s worth straying off Route 66 to view the amazing Boston Avenue United Methodist Church which is regarded as one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical art deco architecture in the United States. The church is open for tours following the 11:00 Sunday services.
On a lark, we pulled into Canute, Oklahoma for a picnic lunch in its WPA park and afterwards followed the directions to the Holy Family Cemetery with its 1928 grotto. The grotto is on the back end of the cemetery and has a glass door allowing you to look inside at two angels praying over the body of Jesus Christ.
The Tallest Cross in the Western Hemisphere can be viewed in Groom, Texas. Be sure to drive up to the site since there’s lots to see, including life-sized bronze “Stations of the Cross” and the “Last Supper”.
It wasn’t until reaching New Mexico that we could see the influence of the Spanish exploration. At the Pecos National Historical Park we viewed the remains of a 17th century Spanish mission. The City of Santa Fe was home to several notable churches including the oldest church in the US, the San Miguel mission which was built between 1610 – 1626. The Loretto Chapel can also be found in Santa Fe. This Gothic-Revival Chapel is home to the “miracle staircase” which ascends to the second story choir loft without any means of support.
New Mexico is scattered with small, Catholic churches which pop up in some surprising places. Be sure to keep your eyes open! Our favorites includes the San Jose Mission which rises about the Laguna Pueblo and the Santa Maria de Acoma Church which is perched on a hillside above the town of McCarty’s.
Route 66 has lots of great things to see and do. Seeing how people worship and express their faith was, for our family, another great aspect of this cross country road trip.