Religions and religious buildings along Route 66

Giant Cross, Groom TX
Above: Giant Cross in Groom, Texas.

As soon as we reach the southern area called the Bible Belt (from southern Illinois to Texas), one enters a conservative fief, known to vote Republican since Democracy took hold. Religion plays a central role here, including on Route 66.

True to the advertising style of giant neon signs found in motels and restaurants along Route 66, some churches are adorned with giant crosses covered with brightly colored neon lights, intended to illuminate the night and show the way to travelers. For example, the "Big Blue Neon Cross" at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Illinois.

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel IL
Above: St. Paul Lutheran Church and its "Big Blue Neon Cross" in Hamel, Illinois

Other churches cater exclusively to Route 66 travelers, offering a place of meditation and praying during their stopover. This small structure, "Route 66 Chapel", is always open.

Route 66 Chapel, Lincoln IL
Above: Route 66 Chapel in Lincoln, Illinois.

A little later, in Webb City, Missouri, in the very heart of the most conservative Bible Belt, the "Giant Praying Hands" dominate a small hill near Route 66. Of most recent construction, they were erected in 1974 as a tribute to the many children of the city.

Giant Praying Hands, Webb City MO
Above: Giant Praying Hands in Webb City, Missouri.

More recently, the "Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" or Giant Cross of Groom, overlooks the vast Texas plains from its 190-feet. Built in 1995 to protect the road stretching out at its feet, it is reputed to be the second tallest cross in the world.

Giant Cross in Groom, TX
Above: Giant Cross (Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ). Groom, Texas.

The Shrine Mosque in Springfield, Missouri, was built in 1923 and can accommodate nearly 5,000 people. Its Moorish towers and terracotta are remarkable.

Shrine Mosque of Springfield, MO
Above: Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque in Springfield, Missouri.

Surprising, funny, disturbing - or all at the same time? In Missouri, the religious amusement park Precious Moments Chapel, a sort of a joyful, large church animated by little angels whose features are reminiscent of manga characters, is also a temple of consumption. There are restaurants and souvenir shops, in a Disney World-like atmosphere...

Precious Moments in Carthage MO
Above: Precious Moments Chapel Center, Carthage, Missouri.