Falling in love with Colorado’s mountains is not a new practice. In fact, it is one that has been around for centuries. Colorado’s “purple mountain majesties” have inspired artists, celebrities, musicians, novelists, poets, and a wide variation of logos.
One individual who was swept up in the beauty of the Rockies was Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, better known as Mother Cabrini, who in 1902 discovered a property on the east slope of Lookout Mountain owned by the town of Golden. With no reliable source of water the property was not a beacon of real estate investment or development, but in it Cabrini saw an opportunity to create a summer camp for the charges at the Queen of Heaven Orphanage in Denver.
After she negotiated the purchase of the property, Cabrini helped create a farming operation to include dairy cows, livestock and poultry and a summer camp for about 20 girls who during the months of June, July and August would enjoy the freedom of the outdoors while engaging in recreational activities and a variety of farm chores.
Cabrini had a vision for the property. She wanted it to be a place with many small chapels where “pilgrims will come and pray.” That vision is now embodied in the Mother Cabrini Shrine located in Golden on 20819 Cabrini Blvd. Made up of a variety of elements, many of which Cabrini oversaw, the shrine continually attracts visitors from around the state and beyond searching for peace, quiet and prayer amid majestic views.
“A most beautiful and sacred place of worship,” wrote online reviewer and local guide Erin Bates. “No matter your personal beliefs I highly recommend this spot. There is the meditation garden, spots for silent reflection, chapels for prayer, a fresh-water spring where you can collect water for drinking (very clean), and a large statue of Christ overlooking the mountainside. Many blessings to be found on this land.”
One of the allures of the shrine, as Bates mentions, is its spring, which, according to the purveyors of the shrine, has a miraculous backstory.
In 1902 there was no source of drinking water on the property, which meant it all had to be brought up to the camp from a stream at the bottom of Mt. Vernon Canyon. That trek led to thirsty sisters who complained to Cabrini of the situation.
She told them to “lift that rock over there and start to dig. You will find water fresh enough to drink and clean enough to wash.”
Now encased by a replica of the grotto in Lourdes, France, the spring is housed in an 8,000 gallon tank and has never stopped running. For many who make the trek to the shrine, the waters of the spring offer healing and peace for to their lives.
The Stone House
Over the following decade and beyond the shrine began to develop into something more. The Stone House built with native rocks was erected between 1912 and 1914 on a level lot where Cabrini had dropped her cane.
“Daughters, I dropped my cane,” Cabrini said as the sisters were searching for an area to build the house. “Where you find it, make a sign with stones, because that is where the house is to be built.”
Though Colorado’s weather patterns have caused need for multiple restorations, the foundation of the house remains the same.
Heart of Stones and Stairway of Prayer
On her final visit to Colorado in 1912, Cabrini also left her mark by arranging a set of stones on the mountain in the shape of a heart. On top of the heart they arranged a cross and, with smaller stones, Cabrini arranged a crown of thorns. The stones that make up the dedicated site overlooking Denver known as the “Mount of the Sacred Heart” are now encased in glass for all to see.
The Stairway of Prayer is the culminating piece of the Cabrini Shrine. Though Mother Cabrini did not take part in its creation, it follows the path she and the sister took to the top of the mountain when creating the Heart of Stones. Over 340 stairs lead to a 22-foot statue of Christ and, along the way, visitors will find stone mosaics depicting the Stations of the Cross.