Steve Stephens | Special to The Dispatch
For most Christian denominations, Easter is the holiest day of the year.
But as the weather warms and nature greens, the Easter season is also a good time to explore visitor sites in Ohio supported by various Christian creeds. The sites welcome guests of any faith, or none, who are interested in exploring their own spirituality or in learning about the history and various beliefs of their neighbors.
The pandemic is still affecting the operating hours at some sites, so remember to check with the site before making a trip.
Visitors to Biblewalk (www.biblewalk.us), a religious-themed wax museum in Mansfield, may find the site very moving, very kitschy, or perhaps a combination of both. But they’ll never find anything else like it in the state — or maybe anywhere.
The museum uses more than 325 life-size wax figures, displayed in some 100 dioramas, to tell the story of the Christian Bible from creation to resurrection and even beyond. One 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 Museum of Woodcarving, contains more than 100 life-size wooden carvings, also recreating biblical stories and events, all carved by artist Joseph Barta over a span of more than 30 years. The Last Supper, alone, took Barta more than 4 years to complete, according to the museum.
Visitors can buy admission for tours of individual galleries or to the whole museum at varying rates.
Kirtland Mormon history
The Lake County town of Kirtland was the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons, in the early days of the church’s founding.
The Latter-day Saints, now headquartered in Salt Lake City, operates a visitors center (https://bit.ly/3iOlqiy) in Kirtland and has preserved many structures and rebuilt others important in the early Mormon community — including the home where first church leader Joseph Smith and his family lived and the general store where Smith established a School of the Prophets.
Visitors can tour the historic buildings and learn about the fascinating men and women who founded the church.
The first church temple was also built at Kirtland. Many devout Mormons believe that Jesus visited the site during its dedication in 1836.
Today the lovely structure, now a National Historic Landmark, is owned by the Community of Christ, an offshoot of the original church (www.kirtlandtemple.org).
The building has been closed to tours during the pandemic, but is slated to reopen later this year. Visitors to the Kirtland Temple website can also take an online 3-D tour for a fee that goes toward maintaining the building.
Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center
Many visitors enjoy the various attractions in the state’s Amish region in and around Holmes County, the site of the largest community of Amish in the world.
Those who would like to understand more about the beliefs and practices of the “plain people” they see riding horse-drawn buggies and outfitted in intentionally drab clothing should visit the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center (www.behalt.com) in Berlin.
The center tells the story of 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 the Amish and Mennonite communities of today.
The heart of the heritage center is Behalt Cyclorama, a 10-foot by 265-foot circular mural that tells that story with colorful visual images painted by artist Heinz Gaugel over many years, completing the work in 1992. (Behalt means “to remember.”) The cyclorama is one of only a few such artworks, on any topic, left in the world.
Sorrowful Mother Shrine
No matter their spiritual beliefs, visitors to Sorrowful Mother Shrine (www.sorrowfulmothershrine.org) will likely find the site to be a peaceful and perhaps inspiring place.
The Catholic shrine is located in a beautiful woodland 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.
Along the shrine’s verdant paths, visitors will find more than 30 separate grottos or religious sculptures honoring a particular saint or an event from the life of Jesus or the Virgin Mary.
The heart of the shrine is the Sorrowful Mother Chapel, rebuilt after a 1912 fire destroyed the previous chapel. The chapel’s lovely stained-glass windows depict the role of Mary in the church. Masses are offered frequently at the chapel, including on Easter Day at 9 and 11 a.m.
The site also includes a gift shop and an open-air chapel for larger gatherings.
Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at [email protected]