The Cross in the Woods is a
Catholic shrine located at 7078 M-68 in
It was declared a national shrine by the
States Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB) on September 15
the largest crucifix in the world, it has become one of the most
famous and most frequently visited shrines in Michigan. The
highlight of the shrine is a large wooden cross and bronze figure
. The site also includes outdoor and
indoor churches, numerous smaller shrines, and a nun doll museum.
The Cross in the Woods is open 365 days a year and the Church built
at this location holds Masses every day, year round. Each year
between 275,000 and 325,000 people come to visit the Cross in the
The original Long House Church and the Cross
In April 1946, Bishop Francis J.
of the Diocese of Grand Rapids
searched for land to establish a new church in Indian River for
parishioners who were traveling great distances to attend Mass. Mr.
James J. Harrington, a resident of Burt Lake, offered to help locate land for the new church,
which would put in place the first residential priest of Cheboygan
He came across the undeveloped Burt Lake
State Park property, intending to build. However, he was denied the
land by the United States Department of Conservation.
In June 1946, Father Charles D. Brophy was appointed the
administrator of the future church. He wanted to name the church
after Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
seventeenth century Mohawk Indian who enjoyed making small crosses
and placing them in trees in the woods as shrines. However, he was
not able to name the church after her because she had not yet been
declared a saint.
Without a church in place yet, the parish began to hold Masses in a
town hall. One parishioner, J.J. Harrington, expressed great
interest in an outdoor church that he had recently seen. Father
Brophy liked the idea of an indoor church for year round
parishioners and an outdoor church for the summer and visitors. The
outdoor church could also be seen as a way to attract tourists for
Throughout the summer of 1946, plans for the grounds and the new
church were presented, requesting the State Park land. "In May of
1948, the Commission granted them the land for the price of $1.00
and a box of candy for the secretary." The original church was
built in a “long house” style and designed by Alden B. Dow
student of Frank Lloyd Wright
look out over the wooded area that surrounded it. It was completed
by Memorial Day weekend of 1949. Today, this area houses the gift
shop, main office and the nun doll museum in the lower level.
After discussion with Dow, Father Brophy decided to build the
largest wooden crucifix
in the world on
Calvary Hill, located north of the Long House Chapel. In July 1952,
Bishop Babcock granted them permission to begin the project. The
foundation of the Cross required a high steel and concrete base
which would be covered in soil, making the hill long, high, and
the summer of 1952, redwood timber was custom cut by a chain saw
from a lumber yard in Oregon and shipped
on a railroad flat car.
It took two days to assemble the
Cross. On August 5
it was lifted up to the foundation by cranes and
secured. It stands tall.
, a renowned
Michigan sculptor, agreed to create the figure of Christ for the
Cross. The process from sketches to a plaster mold took four years.
was then cast in bronze at the Kristians-Kunst Metalstobori Foundry
Norway. Weighing seven tons and tall from head to
toe, it was one of the largest castings to ever be shipped across
On August 9, 1959, it was raised and
attached to the Cross with 13 bolts that were long and two inches
wide. The formal dedication was on August 16.
The Holy Stairs
In 1956, 28 stairs were built to lead up Calvary Hill to the base
of the Cross. These stairs represent the 28 stairs that Jesus
climbed to the throne of Pontius Pilate
, where he was condemned to
death. Therefore, they are named The Holy Stairs. In 1992, because
of damage from weather, the decision was made to clean the figure
of Christ. The Jensen Foundation of Art Conservation took several
weeks to clean the bronze corpus. It was then waxed and painted a
bronze color. It has been waxed every two years since then by
The New Church
After 50 years of praying before the Cross only in good weather and
using the Long Chapel, seating 250 people, for all other Masses;
the parishioners wished for a larger church that would also give
year round visibility of the Cross. On June 27, 1997, the dream
became a reality when a new church was dedicated. It holds 1,000
people and has large glass windows facing the Cross, for all to see
while participating in Mass.
Becoming a National Shrine
In order for a church to become a national shrine, it must meet
three main requirements. It must follow the Catholic faith, be a
place of worship, and be easily accessible. Then, a petition must
be sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops so that
they can come visit the church and either approve or disapprove of
the petition. The Cross in the Woods was declared a national shrine
in 2006 and is one of two in Michigan. The other national
shrine in Michigan is the National Shrine
of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan.
"There are approximately 120 national
Catholic shrines in the United States."
Besides being a shrine itself, the Cross in the Woods also has many
other smaller shrines on its grounds. These smaller shrines are
meant to recognize influential people and show recognition towards
important members of the Catholic faith.
- Our Lady of the Highway – Carved from carrara marble, the
statue of Our Lady of the Highway was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Leo
Kuhlman in 1957. She is the patroness of all the travelers who come
to visit the Cross in the Woods.
- Saint Peregrine – The patron
of those who are suffering from cancer, HIV, or AIDS, St.
Peregrine’s shrine was first built in the 1960’s. It was originally
located in the entrance to the Shrine, where the Hall of Saints is
presently, but now is in a newly built gazebo.
- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha –
The statue of Kateri Tekakwitha is dedicated to Charles D. Brophy,
the founder of the Shrine and Parish. It is located in the outdoor
sanctuary, looking back towards the Cross. She was an important
influence on the building of the Cross because of her habit of
placing small crosses in the forest as places to stop and
- Saint Francis of Assisi –
Added to the Shrine in 1994, the statue of St. Francis of Assisi is
specifically placed off to the side of the Cross, gazing up towards
it. It is meant to represent him receiving orders from the Cross to
repair Christ’s church. St. Francis of Assisi is the patron of all
those who work for peace and also the patron of the
- The Holy Family – Located in the
outdoor sanctuary part of the Shrine, this statue is meant to
represent family intimacy. It was built by the sculptor, Timothy P.
Schmalz and titled A Quiet Moment.
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross
represent the stages leading up to Jesus’ death. They consist of 14
specific events that occurred before Jesus was crucified and later
rose from the dead. These 14 events are shown through 14 pictures
that represent each moment. They are a way to relive and remember
what happened. At the Cross in the Woods Parish, the Stations of
the Cross are located outside, incorporated into the pine forest on
the Shrine grounds. The main emphasis in this area is a statue of
the resurrected Jesus or the fifteenth Station of the Cross.
Nun Doll Museum
"The Nun Doll Museum has the largest collection of dolls dressed in
traditional attire of men and women religious communities in the
United States." Sally Rogalski began collecting and dressing dolls
in traditional attire in 1945. In 1964, she donated 230 dolls with
the request that admission never be charged to view the dolls. The
collection has grown to 525 dolls and 20 mannequins that represent
the Diocesan clergy and more than 217 religious orders. They can be
seen in glass display cases located in the lower part of the Long