It’s big, it’s brass, and it’s a bit bizarre.
The Bishop Baraga Shrine, aka Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest, is a six-story salute to the Slovenian missionary who trekked to the Lake Superior shore of the Upper Peninsula in 1843.
You can glimpse the sculpture if you glance up at the right spot while driving Highway 41 along Keweenaw Bay near L’Anse and Assinins, but it’s not advised as you may end up in Lake Superior.
It’s best to drive the short distance up the bluff to appreciate the magnitude of the monument. The 35-foot Bishop holds a seven-foot cross and 26-foot long pair of snowshoes, and floats on clouds supported by 25-foot high arched beams. The beams are planted in five teepees, which represent his main missions.
The 60-foot tall tribute was installed in 1972. It is one of several sites associated with Bishop Baraga that are accessible to the public.
Supporters of the U.P.’s first Bishop had launched a cause for sainthood in 1952 that is still under review as the deciders consider the latest miracle attributed to Bishop Baraga.
Why is there much ado about Baraga?
Frederic Baraga, born June 29, 1797, left his native Slovenia in 1830 to work with Native Americans in the Great Lakes region. First stop: Arbre Croche, near Harbor Springs. He also served in Grand Rapids before moving to L’Anse in 1843 where he ministered to immigrant copper and iron miners as well as the native people.
The dedicated priest traveled to far-flung settlements by foot and canoe in warm weather and snowshoe in winter. The “Snowshoe Priest” was the first to record the Chippewa language, and wrote the definitive dictionary still used today.
In 1853 the much-loved Father Baraga was named bishop; by 1866 he had moved to a home near St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette, where he died on January 19, 1868.
Bishop Baraga rests in a crypt at St. Peter Cathedral.
The Bishop Baraga Shrine is open to the public from mid-May to mid-October. Access to the Shrine is limited during the off season. Bring snowshoes.
The sites mentioned are located in area E on the map.
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