2017-07-12

America's Roadside Miracles

A tour of America's lesser-known holy destinations
 
Photographs by Timothy K. Beal

Religion professor Timothy K. Beal's new book, "Roadside Religion," uncovers some of America's most unusual and fascinating religious landmarks. Click through this photo gallery to explore some of these scenes--from a rebuilding of Noah's Ark in Frostburg, Md. to the World's Largest Ten Commandments in Murphy, N.C. Happy trails!
 
 
 
All photographs by Timothy K. Beal. Reproduced with permission of Beacon Press. Timothy K. Beal is Florence Harkness Professor of Religion and director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. His books include 'Religion and Its Monsters' and 'The Book of Hiding.'

Noah's Ark (a.k.a. God's Ark of Safety)

Frostburg, Maryland

Seemingly abandoned at the side of Interstate 68, this skeletal reconstruction of Noah's Ark looks more like the framing for an office building or multilevel parking garage. The structure is built according to the specifications for the ark in Genesis 6.

Centurions, The Holy Land Experience

Orlando, Florida

At The Holy Land Experience, a religious alternative to other theme parks in Orlando, employees-turned-street performers take on the role of bible-era characters. Holy Land bills itself as a "living history museum."

Hole One: Adam and Eve, Golgotha Fun Park

Cave City, Kentucky

The bible-themed miniature golf course at Golgotha Fun Park begins in Genesis 2. Fiberglass statues of Adam (sporting a fig leaf for modesty) and Eve (with forbidden fruit in hand) surround the first hole, while the snake rests coiled on the ground nearby.

Burning Bush, Lexington Ice Center & Sports Complex

Lexington, Kentucky

One of the three miniature golf courses at the Lexington Ice Center & Sports Complex focuses on biblical miracle stories. This reproduction of Moses's burning bush consists of a knee-high wooden box with a light inside, wrapped in plastic vines.

Empty Tomb, Holy Land USA

Bedford County, Virginia

This staging of the empty tomb at Calvary is just one of many stops along the Journey Trail at Holy Land USA, a recreation of the land of the Bible during Jesus' time, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

World's Largest Ten Commandments, Fields of the Wood

Murphy, North Carolina

Every year, more than 100,000 visitors come to this site to see this and other biblical record-breakers. Among them sits a 30ft high, 50ft wide concrete book touted as the World's Largest New Testament.

Sinking Sheep, Fields of the Wood

Murphy, North Carolina

Near the lower right-hand corner of the World's Largest Ten Commandments, a sheep once grazed peacefully at the hillside. Gravity, it seems, has been unkind.

Cross Garden

Prattville, Alabama

Perhaps not a garden in the traditional sense, this assortment of scrap wood and rusted appliances straddles County Road 86 near Prattville, Ala. It's maintained by its religiously imaginative creator, William C. Rice.

Cross Garden Chapel

Prattville, Alabama

This shanty-like "Church of God Jesus and the Holy Ghost" is covered with informative signs, letting onlookers know that "HELL IS HOT" and "YOU WILL DIE."

Front Mural, Precious Moments Chapel, Precious Moments Inspiration Park

Carthage, Missouri

The walls and ceiling of the chapel are covered with hand-painted murals. The lower half of the front mural (pictured) depicts the entrance to heaven. More than 400,000 people each year visit this park dedicated to the popular Precious Moments porcelain figurines.

Miniature Replica of St. Peter's Basilica, Ave Maria Grotto

Cullman, Alabama

Ave Maria Grotto is a four-acre complex of miniature buildings and shrines. Its most popular is a miniature version of Rome, including their model of St. Peter's Basilica. Other replicas include Herod's Temple, the Annunciation Church at Nazareth, and the Tower of Babel.

'How Beautiful Are the Feet', Paradise Gardens

Summerville, Georgia

Paradise Gardens is a block-long collection of religious folk art by the late Christian artist Howard Finster and others. Next to one pathway, surrounded by what most would deem junk, is a large white shoe. Across the toes it reads, "How beautiful are the feet of those who spread the gospel of peace."

4 Bible Books With Secret Histories

The pasts of these books remain a mystery to this day. Read next feature >

More from beliefnet and our partners