For most Christian denominations, Easter is the holiest day of the year.
But as the weather warms up and nature turns green, the Easter season is also a good time to explore Ohio’s sights supported by various Christian beliefs. The sites welcome visitors of all faiths, or not, who wish to explore their own spirituality or learn more about the history and the various beliefs of their neighbors.
The pandemic is still affecting opening hours at some venues, so consider checking with the venue before heading out.
Visitors to Biblewalk (www.biblewalk.us), a religiously themed wax museum in Mansfield, may find the site very moving, very kitsch, or perhaps a combination of the two. But they’ll never find anything else like it in the state – or maybe anywhere.
The museum uses over 325 life-size wax figures, displayed in over 100 dioramas, to tell the story of the Christian Bible from creation to resurrection and beyond. A gallery features scenes from later Christian history, such as Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the cathedral door.
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Another gallery, the Wood Carving Museum, contains over 100 life-size wooden sculptures, also recreating biblical stories and events, all carved by artist Joseph Barta over a period of over 30 years. The Last Supper alone took Barta more than 4 years, according to the museum.
Visitors can purchase tickets for individual gallery tours or for the entire museum at varying rates.
Kirtland Mormon History
The town of Kirtland in Lake County was the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, during the early founding of the Church.
Latter-day Saints, now headquartered in Salt Lake City, operate a welcome center (https://bit.ly/3iOlqiy) in Kirtland and have preserved many structures and rebuilt significant others in the community early Mormon – including the house where church leader Joseph Smith and his family lived and the general store where Smith established a School of the Prophets.
Visitors can tour historic buildings and learn about the fascinating men and women who founded the church.
The first church temple was also built in Kirtland. Many devout Mormons believe that Jesus visited the site when it was dedicated in 1836.
Today the beautiful structure, now a National Historic Landmark, is owned by the Community of Christ, an offshoot of the original church (www.kirtlandtemple.org).
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The building was closed to tours during the pandemic, but is expected to reopen later this year. Visitors to the Kirtland Temple website can also take a 3D tour online for a fee that goes towards maintaining the building.
Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center
Many visitors enjoy the state’s diverse Amish area attractions in and around Holmes County, the site of the largest Amish community in the world.
Those who would like to learn more about the beliefs and practices of the “ordinary people” they see riding horse-drawn buggies and dressed in intentionally drab clothing should visit the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center (www.behalt.com) in Berlin.
The center tells the story of the Amish and related denominations beginning with the 16th century Anabaptist movement in Europe. Many followers of the movement fled religious persecution and settled in America, becoming today’s Amish and Mennonite communities.
The heart of the heritage center is Behalt Cyclorama, a 10-foot by 265-foot circular mural that tells this story with colorful visual images painted by artist Heinz Gaugel over many years, completing the work in 1992. (Behalt stands for ” to remember”. ”) The cyclorama is one of the few works of art of its kind, on any subject, that remains in the world.
Shrine of the Sorrowful Mother
Whatever their spiritual beliefs, visitors to the Sorrowful Mother Shrine (www.sorrowfulmothershrine.org) are likely to find the site peaceful and perhaps inspiring.
The Catholic shrine is located in a beautiful wooded setting covering 120 acres in Seneca County, near Bellevue, and has been operated by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood since its founding in 1850.
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Along the leafy paths of the sanctuary, visitors will find more than 30 distinct caves or religious sculptures honoring a particular saint or event in the life of Jesus or the Virgin Mary.
The heart of the sanctuary is the Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother, rebuilt after a fire in 1912 destroyed the previous chapel. The beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel depict Mary’s role in the church. Masses are offered frequently at the chapel, including Easter Day at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The site also includes a gift shop and an outdoor chapel for large gatherings.
Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at [email protected]