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Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament
A Modern 13th Century Monastery

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Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament
A Modern 13th Century Monastery

By Rochelle Caviness - July 29, 2002

Hidden down a long, rural road in Hanceville, Alabama is the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Our Lady of the Angels. This monastery is the home of The Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration. Of the 40 nuns at this monastery (convent), all but five are cloistered. The monastery was originally located in Irondale, Alabama, but it was moved to Hanceville when the shrine was built.

The shrine was built at the behest of Mother Angelica, the founder of the monastery, in response to a vision that she had. Mother Angelica is perhaps best known as an Evangelistic Catholic who founded the EWTN, Eternal Word Television Network in order to broadcast her lectures and other religious programs. Since its founding, EWTN has grown and expanded into the Global Catholic Network, which is one of the largest, religious media conglomerates in the world. The EWTN studios are located about an hour away from the shrine, in Irondale, Alabama.

The shrine officially opened in 1999, and upon its opening, it became a major attraction with over 30,000 people attending the opening ceremony. The shrine attracts pilgrims and tourist alike. Pilgrims come to worship at regularly scheduled masses and other services, as well as to attend special services or to sit in on a EWTN broadcast.

According to Eugenie Breaux, a spokesperson for the shrine, non-Catholic tourist make up about 60% of the visitors to the shrine. They are attracted to the shrine for a number of reasons, one of which is the unique architecture of the shrine. The buildings at the shrine are designed to look like a 13th century Franciscan, Italian monastery, a task that was admirably successful. In fact certain aspects of the site, such as the main sanctuary, has the feel and aura of one of Europe's grand cathedrals.

The shrine features vaulted ceilings and numerous stain glass windows, as well as other embellishments such as elaborate woodwork. In addition to the main structure that houses the monastery and shrine, there is also a small castle on site, complete with a life sized model of Joan of Arc in full armor. A great deal of money was put into the building of the monastery and shrine, and into its decor. Only the best materials were used in the buildings, such as using rare colors of marble in some of the mosaics that grace the floors. In addition, workmen from around the world where brought to the site to create the massive edifice that now stands in what was once an overgrown field.

Shroud of Turin

Another feature of the shrine that attracts visitors is the Shroud of Turin exhibit. The shrine was gifted with four, full-sized photos of the Shroud that are on permanent display. Two of these photos are color, positive images, and two are black and white, negative images.

Visiting the Shrine

Dress Code: Entry to the shrine is free, however visitors are requested to dress modestly. This means that visitors should not wear sleeveless tops, tank tops, shorts, or mini-skirts. If you arrive in inappropriate attire, you may be able to borrow something from the nuns that you can use to cover-up. This dress code applies equally to men and women.

Where to Stay: While the monastery does not take in overnight guests, there are many guest houses close by in which you can stay. In addition, many nearby hotels, some as far away as Birmingham, run shuttles to the shrine.

More Information about the shrine, including directions and a mass schedule, can be found online at:

Cullman County

To learn more about Cullman County, and its many attractions, restaurants, and lodging options, contact the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-313-5114. Back to top

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