Lourdes Grotto

After being colonized by European cultures, often having slave populations from Africa, and natives as well, the Caribbean Islands have intertwined beliefs and religious systems to form something new or at least remix the old. Jamaica has Rastafarianism, Christianity with some new ideas; Trinidad and Tobago have a well-sized Hindu population; and Jews and Muslims are also scattered throughout the islands. Aruba was colonized by both the Spanish and the Dutch and so has a strong history as a Catholic island. Even today, most of the population is Catholic. While there are many religions represented on the island, it is the Aruba churches that draw those of all faiths.

The Lourdes Grotto is possibly the most well-known religious site on Aruba. Located near San Nicolas in the southern part of the island, away from most of the action on the island, the Lourdes Grotto is peaceful and set away from much of the tourist activity. A grotto is either a natural or artificial cave used by humans, and this Aruba grotto became a religious site when a church placed a large statue of the Virgin Mary into a rocky hillside called Seroe Preto in 1958. The Lourdes Grotto is named after the region in southern France where the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl. The statue was placed in Aruba to mark the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of this appearance. Another Aruba grotto is located across the street and, as an extra treat for visitors, parakeets live all around this area. Every year on February 11, a procession travels from the St. Theresita Church located in San Nicolas to the Lourdes Grotto Aruba for mass.

Other Aruba churches and religious sites are also excellent ways to add a little something extra to your visit here. The Chapel of Alto Vista or Pilgrim's Church was Aruba's first chapel. Built by the Spanish and natives, the chapel is bright yellow and located on a hill. The surrounding views are beautiful. White crosses lining the pathway to this Catholic church in Aruba mark the stations of the cross.

The Santa Ana Catholic Church in Aruba is another great place to visit. Also called the Church of Noord, this structure is the finest example of neo-gothic architecture in the Caribbean. It was first built in 1776, but the structure left today has been rebuilt twice, and is located just outside of Oranjestad.

The oldest original religious structure on the island is Aruba's protestant church. A terracotta roof, wooden shutters, and folk art decorate the exterior of the church. Usually, the doors are locked, but visitors can explore the grounds and Bible museum nearby. Although the Jewish population on the island is small, there is also the Beth Israel Synagogue that welcomes visitors both Jewish and not Jewish.

Whether you are visiting an Aruba grotto or any of the Aruba churches, this islands religious history often takes you a bit off the beaten tourist path and is an interesting and peaceful addition to any itinerary.

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