ESTES PARK - Built atop a massive granite rock, it's in every way a part of the valley landscape. Saint Catherine's Stone Chapel on the Rock sits in the shadow of Mount Meeker, the 13,916-foot peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.
It was built in 1935 by Monsignor Joseph Bosetti with the intention of utilizing the symbolism of the strength of the rock that the chapel sits on.
When heavy rains unleashed a torrent of rock, mud, water and debris down the slopes of Mount Meeker the chapel would need that strength to simply survive.
"Everyone is agreeing that this was of biblical proportions," said Brenda Brown, a parishioner at the chapel.
The slide cut a path a quarter-mile wide through the valley, taking with it boulders and snapping large trees. The area was heavily forested before the slide. After it passed, the area was clear cut.
"The power of the water was terrifying," Brown said.
When the slide reached the bottom of the valley it had taken everything in its path, everything save for the Chapel on the Rock. The water, mud and debris reached the rock and then went around it.
"Some have taken it as a sign of discouragement, but on the contrary, most of us are looking at this as, hello, the rock is there. The chapel is there. God is here. Faith is real and here is a symbol of it," Brown said.
While the valley is a scene of destruction the chapel is undamaged. There is no mud or water damage to the interior of the historic chapel.
The chapel also holds historical significance because it was visited in 1993 by Pope John Paul II. The pope spent the day there and hiked trails nearby. A sign was erected at the trailhead that reads, "John Paul II Trailhead." A likeness of the pope is painted on the wood post.
That sign and painting escaped damage while just a few feet away trees were torn out of the ground by the slide.
Work has already begun to clear the parking lot of the Chapel on the Rock of mud and debris.
The chapel is used for weddings, services and is visited frequently by tourists.
"It is remaining what it has been for nearly a century, a sign of strength and peace and hope," Brown said.
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