To get to the Grotto of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Rosebank, Staten Island, we walked by three stray cats, two empty lots, several chain link fences, an intense game of jousting played by two toddlers on Big Wheels, and three men doing mixed martial arts training, a Rottweiler watching loyally nearby. This shrine is in someone's backyard, and the neighborhood exists around it.
Dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Mount Carmel), it's a hideous, fascinating thing, a homemade, hardcore labor of love undertaken by Italian immigrants who wanted to preserve their traditions and culture as they made a home on Staten Island. The sprawling shrine, 30 feet high at its highest, was begun in 1903 and completed in 1938. Stop by for the annual feast on July 16, to celebrate folk art and faith.