Monday, October 16, 2006

Photo of Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine, in Portage des Sioux, Missouri

Our Lady of the Rivers is a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Mississippi River at Portage des Sioux, Missouri, which is about 29 highway miles north of downtown Saint Louis.

The shrine was dedicated on October 13th, 1957. According to a newspaper article that year:
“While the streets of many riverbank communities disappeared beneath the rising waters, something important was happening in Portage des Sioux, Mo. Father Edward B. Schlattmann, pastor of St. Francis Church, called upon his parish Legion of Mary to pray to the Blessed Virgin. For the first time anywhere, Mary’s protection was sought under the appellative, “Our Lady of the Rivers.” The surging current swept over the roads leading into Portage and lapsed hungrily toward the town. Isolated and frightened, Portage people watched helplessly as the water inched nearer their homes. After two weeks, when the flood finally crested, their community was mostly high and dry.”
The flood was in 1951.

Portage des Sioux, although in the floodplain of both the Mississippi River, shown here, and the Missouri River, about two and half miles to the south, is built up somewhat from the river. A causeway leads to Portage Island, which the shrine shares with marinas. A smaller foot-causeway leads to the shrine itself, which is built out on the river. The land surrounding this causeway is only a few inches above the river level, and is marshy in places. The river is about 9/10 of a mile wide here.

Portage des Sioux is upstream from Saint Louis, and most critically, is upstream from the confluence with the often violent and unpredictable Missouri River. The land here is protected by a series of slackwater dams, and the river is wide, serene, and regulated in height, and is ideal for pleasure boating. The shrine is used for the annual "Blessing of the Fleet" in July.

Due to the curvature of the river, we are here looking north to Illinois.

Under the high bluffs on the opposite side of the river is Illinois Route 3, the "Great River Road" which is famous for spectacular scenery.


The monument is in the modern style and is made of modern materials.

Along the causeway are historical plaques.

A band of Sioux, being pursued by enemies on the river, took their canoes overland between the rivers, escaping their rivals who did not know of the shortcut.

Click for the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Sioux Indians.

Note that the descriptive signs on these plaques have been swapped.

About the founding of Portage des Sioux:
Concerned by reports of American plans to establish a post across from the mouth of the Missouri, [Spanish] Lt. Gov. Zenon Trudeau encouraged François Saucier to found a settlement in 1799 in the nearby region between the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers at Portage des Sioux. The villiage drew most of its inhabitants from the French establishments on the east side of the Mississippi and became the St. Charles district's second most important settlement.
—William E. Foley, A History of Missouri, Volume I 1673-1820.

This was the site of a Spanish, and then American military post.

Scripture citations are on the handrailing around the statue. Apocalypse (Revelation) 12:1 reads: And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Also in Portage des Sioux is Saint Francis of Assisi parish, founded in 1799.

1 comment:

  1. Although some may object to its modern appearance it still is an imposing figure that can be seen for many miles.