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Holy Family Shrine

Glass-walled church.

Field review by the editors.

Gretna, Nebraska

A unique church stands on a hill visible from both directions on I The Holy Family Shrine is glass-walled, with supports holding up its ft. tall roof. A man-made stream bubbles along a path cut along the walkway to the entrance and then in the floor of the nave.

The idea for the shrine was hatched in , and a series of miracles led to the acquisition of property and building of the shrine, which opened in Interstate drivers have a place to stop, pray, and discover Catholicism.

Holy Family Shrine

Pflug Rd, Gretna, NE
I exit Drive south on Hwy 31 for about miles, then turn right and drive west on Pflug Rd for about miles. The Shrine will be on the right.
M-Sa 10 am - 5 pm, Su noon-5pm (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.

More on Holy Family Shrine

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Have you noticed the little chapel standing on a bluff overlooking Interstate 80 near the Gretna, Neb., exit?

The Holy Family Shrine is part religion and part art. The glass-enclosed chapel allows visitors an opportunity to spend time praying, meditating, or just admiring its beauty.

Ever wonder what that amazing structure on the hill over Interstate 80 in eastern Nebraska? Here's a look at the Holy Family Shrine in Gretna! Learn about the history behind the chapel and why the architecture is so significant. This is one of the most unique hidden gems in the Midwest!

COVID Update: The Holy Family Shrine is temporarily closed on Sundays. Masks are required, and hand sanitizers are placed throughout the grounds. There is a limit to how many people can be inside the chapel at one time.

Inside Holy Family Shrine’s Chapel

The chapel is an architect’s dream. With glass walls, the chapel was designed to reflect life on the plains.

Close-up of the woodwork on the chapel at Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska

Nearly 50 feet tall, the chapel’s red cedar arching wood and trim resemble grain waving on the prairie.

Inside, an altar and about a dozen rows of pews await you. Sit and spend time with your thoughts or just admire the beauty.

Exterior of Holy Family Shrine along Interstate 80 in Nebraska

Behind the altar, an etching of the holy family – Mary, Joseph, and Jesus – appears on the southern panel. When illuminated, the chapel and the etching create a beautiful sight.

While the chapel is Catholic-based and hosts a mass each Saturday morning, it’s open to everyone regardless of faith. It is a place where people can pray or meditate at their convenience.

Altar of Holy Family Shrine in Gretna, Nebraska

Related post: Looking for more chapels with unique architecture in the Midwest? You have to see the gorgeous Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City, S.D.

History of Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska

Opened in , the chapel was the dream of a priest in the early s that eventually brought together four strangers, who worked to make that dream come true. Unknown to each other, they felt a mission to create a special place along the interstate where people could come to pray and practice
their Catholic faith.

Exterior of Holy Family Shrine chapel in Nebraska. You can see trucks on Interstate 80 in the background.

Once together, they spent two years working to find the perfect spot on Interstate 80 to become home for the chapel.

The chapel, itself, is a story of collapse and rebirth. Breaking ground in , according to Fast Company, a wind storm destroyed it in

Undeterred, organizers rebuilt it, and it stands strong today.

What you’ll see at the Holy Family Shrine

Your visit to the Holy Family Shrine includes a tour of the visitors center, with artwork and biblical artifacts that help tell the story of Jesus Christ and the crucifixion. A dozen storyboards describe the history of the shrine.

Interior of the visitors center at Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska

Representing the shroud of Jesus falling to the ground after his resurrection, a sculpture hangs from the ceiling in the middle of the visitors center.

A stream guides the path from the visitors center to the chapel, and then on to a cross showing Jesus at his crucifixion equals the distance that he traveled, carrying the cross on his march along the Stations of the Cross.

Visit the statue of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane at the beginning of the trail, then follow the path to the chapel. South of the chapel, standing about 40 feet tall, the cross recognizes Jesus’ sacrifice for people. The statue of Jesus on the crucifix is 8 feet tall and faces the interstate to share his sacrifice with passersby.

Surrounded by a small garden, the site includes a bench for visitors to sit and reflect.

If you go

Holy Family Shrine

Where: Pflug Road, Gretna, Neb.

The shrine is open 10 a.m p.m. Monday-Saturday. A gift shop offers religious-themed items.

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By Belinda Lanks1 minute Read

Imagine driving, bleary-eyed, along a Nebraska interstate and stumbling across this resplendent, Prairie Style chapel. Would you see it as a sign from God? (Hey, it&#x;s not a silly question; I probably would, and I&#x;m technically Jewish.) Located in Gretna, the Holy Family Shrine is the work of four anonymous Catholics&#x;including an architect and landscape architect&#x;who were inspired to build a chapel for travelers of the road and of the spirit in the style of Euine Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The founders&#x; vision was executed by the Midwestern firm BCDM Architects to stunning effect, with the upper trusses of the façade interlaced like waving wheat. A water feature cut into a long pathway leads visitors into the shrine and a skylit lobby containing a slightly incongruous metal sculpture symbolizing the shroud of Christ as it fell to the tomb after his resurrection. The chapel then opens up to an exalted, glass-walled space that merges the indoors with nature. BCDM&#x;s other effort to integrate the built and natural environments can be seen in the visitors&#x; center, a modest structure embedded into the landscape.

The project broke ground in , only to be destroyed by a ferocious windstorm in The team eventually regrouped and modified the design to withstand nature&#x;s gusts. And now, the building now stands as a monument to rebirth, much like a certain someone who lived about 2, years ago.

[Images by Kessler Photography; courtesy of BCDM Architects]

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