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On top of the world with the Madonna

Madonna Queen of the Universe in East Boston

Adam Balsam took a trip to the top of the Don Orione Home's Madonna shrine in East Boston yesterday.

From downtown, Orient Heights, Castle Island and other neighborhoods miles from Orient Heights, it just looks like a huge blank brick... _brick_ on top of the far side of East Boston.

If you make the trek up the ~120 stairs from the corner of Breed and Leydon streets and turn the corner onto Orient Ave, you're treated with views of this behemoth - and incredible views from Boston Light to the Tobin.

More on the shrine.

Photo copyright Adam Balsam. Posted in the Universal Hub pool on Flickr.

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The original intent was to place the statue on top of the building. Apparently this caused problems with planes. Keep in mind how close it is to Logan Airport. For years in the 60s and 70s the statue stood on the ground in front of the Don Orione nursing home. We would drive by it when I was a child. Let me tell you, that thing looked MASSIVE when it was on the ground. I'm not sure what other function the brick building serves. Is there a chapel in there or something?

Voting closed 15

Yep, there's a chapel, gift shop, and some offices of some sort.

Voting closed 9

Growing up Jewish on the North Shore, for at least 35 years I passed by the sign for the "Madonna Queen" on Rt. 1A and never considered stopping. One day, after living in Eastie for a couple of years, I decided to follow the signs up the hill and see what was what. I was already not a religious person by that point in my life, yet I found this odd spot to be one of the most powerful places I've ever experienced despite how kitschy and ridiculous I think it looks at first glance. The views are amazing, and the statue is weirdly wonderful and welcoming. I still visit her from time to time when I'm stressed or sad and I always find some comfort there. I don't know if it's the panoramic view or the shrine itself but I feel something special there ... and I also feel incredibly foolish to say so. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Voting closed 67

Did you know she was created by a Jewish sculptor that the Don Orione Society sheltered during WWII? http://donorionehome.org/Home/About-Us/Learn-More-About-Don-Orione-Home/...

Voting closed 26

and thank you for that info. Interesting.

Voting closed 15

Another atheist for the shrine. ❤️

Voting closed 27

Every time someone says "huge Madonna on hill near the water"

"Cherish" starts to play in my head...

Voting closed 19

Am I the only one who thinks that is really ugly?

Voting closed 15

No, you're not the only one. It's terribly ugly ... and yet weirdly beautiful in its own way. I don't really know how else to describe it.

Voting closed 16