Grotto of Agony

The Grotto of the Agony at St. Michael’s Mission House in Conesus, New York
The Grotto of the Agony at St. Michael’s Mission House in Conesus, New York

There is no way in hell that the Evangelical group that has taken over St. Michael’s Mission House in Conesus, New York will eve restore the The Grotto of the Agony. Christians have a lot in common but only Catholics wallow in the details of Christ’s crucifixion by entertaining thoughts of or practicing self-flagellation as penance for atonement their sins or as a path to sanctity.

We were in the back seat of Jeff and Mary Kaye’s car last week, traveling south along the western edge of Hemlock Lake, on a small country road when we came across a huge abandoned complex. The former seminary for “Societas Verbi Divini” or Divine Word Fathers is the perfect setting for “ruin porn” or a horror movie. The missionary order left the complex in the mid eighties and took the statues off their pedistals.

An Evangelical group has taken possession of the grounds and a caretaker told us about the “Grotto of the Agony.” We wandered around and found concrete structures for the fourteen outdoor stations of the cross that had been stripped of the depictions of Christ’s final hours. A life size cross near the Grotto showed signs of the body that had once been nailed to it. The Grotto’s centerpiece was a stone, cave-like structure that had been built into the hillside. I took some photos in the early nineties, studies for recasting the stations of the cross, and I really need to get back on that project.

There are a few websites devoted to St. Michael’s, one official and one fan-based.


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