Shrine of the Ages

A modern, rectangular stone building with two large windows on the left side, and a door in the middle. The right side is all stone with metal letters that spell Shrine of the Ages.

Shrine of the Ages is a multi-purpose building used by the National Park Service, Grand Canyon Association, and others. It is also used to conduct religious services and may be rented for private functions, including wedding ceremonies, by obtaining a park Special Use Permit. More about Special Use Permits.

audience watching a lecture with slide show in the auditorium.
A lecture in the main auditorium.

Ranger Programs and Special Activities

Frequently, during spring and fall months, and occasionally during the winter, nightly Evening Programs are held inside Shrine of the Ages Auditorium. Programs offer an opportunity to learn about a variety of Grand Canyon resources.

Topics that park rangers may discuss include: geology, human history, wildlife, night sky, water resources, rock art, canyon hiking, and more. More about this season's South Rim Ranger Programs...

Special activities are also held in the Shrine. Events may include lectures, concerts, and demonstrations by visiting scientists, artists, and musicians. Programs are open to the community and the general public.

The free Village Route Shuttle (blue line on map below) has both a westbound and eastbound stop in front of the Shrine of the Ages. It can be accessed by private vehicle using Parking Lot A. It is within walking distance of Market Plaza, Mather Campground, Trailer Village, and Yavapai Lodge .
Village or Blue Route Shuttle bus loop map shows the inbound and outbound stops
Village (Blue Route) Shuttle Bus Route - Loop Map

A choir wearing robes on either side of a stone altar and wooden cross. The Grand Canyon landscape is behind the choir.
April 5, 1950, Arizona State College choir singing at 16th annual Easter Sunrise Service

History of Shrine of the Ages

Beginning with the idea for an interfaith chapel at Grand Canyon as early as 1917, it wasn’t until 1952 that Shrine of the Ages Chapel Corporation was formed, plans were drawn up, and fundraising started.

The corporation was composed of representatives from Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant services, and was approved by the National Park Service because it offered the opportunity for all religious faiths to have a place of worship. The idea was to build a permanent building near a site on the canyon rim already used for services, including a very popular Easter Sunrise service.

Artist's drawing of original design for chapel, a circular structure of three stories with windows spanning 180 degrees of the circumference, with a stone wall on the other half. A single-story wing is located behind the chapel.
Architect Harold E. Wagoner's vision for the Shrine of the Ages

Harold E. Wagoner, a member of the board of directors of the Church Architectural Guild of America, was selected as architect. Working within park service guidelines to respect the natural environment and Native American culture, he designed a structure that reflected the architectural style of a kiva, a place of worship used by Native Americans in the Southwest.

This design worked well since the park service also required that no towers or specific religious symbols be used. Because the initial building site was on the rim of the canyon just west of today’s Hermits Rest Route shuttle stop, plans called for the main auditorium to have a sweeping canyon view from a multi-story, curved window placed behind the altar.

A special hydraulic lift would raise and lower at least three different altar configurations for Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant services. An organ placed on a small balcony, with wind chests and pipes located at different sections of the main chapel, would provide stereophonic sound effects.

Circled area shows the proposed location of chapel on the rim of the canyon. in relation to the forest and the sheer cliffs in the foreground.
Proposed placement of the Shrine on the rim of the canyon
Even as fund-raising efforts reached around the world, questions about whether the rim was an appropriate location for the structure resulted in delays. Some even argued that the building only remotely resembled a kiva, instead looking more like a huge spacecraft perched on the canyon rim.

Donations were never quite enough to realize Wagoner’s plans, so federal funding became involved. The building was ultimately redesigned and relocated away from the edge of the canyon. An appropriate site was chosen next to the existing Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery, and the Shrine of the Ages was completed by 1970.
Large two-story building with stone walls and two, large arches that frame entryway walls with glass doors and floor to ceiling windows.
Main entrance into today's Shrine of the Ages

A Special Use Permit is required to use the Building

The National Park Service took over ownership of the building in 1975, along with all maintenance, operational and administrative duties. Today various organizations use the building, as can anyone who qualifies for a Special Use Permit.

The Shrine of the Ages sees many activities, including the annual Grand Canyon Music Festival, Celebrate Wildlife Day, and Hiker’s Symposium. The National Park Service uses the building for office space, training, special events, and ranger programs, including the daily Evening Program from October through April. And of course, the building continues to be used for some religious services.


stone pillars with gravestones behind
Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery


Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery

Looking for famous historical figures involved in the development and protection of Grand Canyon? The Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery is a great place to explore! John Hance, Ralph Cameron, Pete Berry, Ellsworth Kolb, Gunnar Widforss, and Eddie McKee are just a few folks you might run into at the cemetery.

gravestone on large boulder with flowers on side
Gravestone in Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery


People interred at the cemetery include Grand Canyon pioneers, war veterans, tribal members, and employees of the concessioners, US Forest Service, and National Park Service. The cemetery, grave markers, and gateway arch are included on the List of Classified Historic Structures in Grand Canyon National Park.

The Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery is still an active cemetery, although most of the sites are now full or reserved. Originally, to qualify for burial, an individual must have lived at Grand Canyon for no less than three years or must have made a significant and substantial contribution to the development of, public knowledge about, understanding of or appreciation for Grand Canyon National Park.

For more stories about the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery visit the Arizona State University webpages Nature, Culture, and History at the Grand Canyon: Cemetery.

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5 minutes, 47 seconds

Park ranger Patrick Gamman joins ranger Nicole DeLuca for a visit to the final resting place for many of Grand Canyon's earliest pioneers.

Last updated: December 4, 2018

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PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



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