Historic Baraga Sites

Historic Venerable Bishop Frederic Baraga Sites

Baraga Crypt

Baraga CryptThe first St. Peters Church was a white wooden structure built in 1855. A larger church with a stone foundation was completed in 1866, and became the cathedral when Bishop Frederic Baraga moved to Marquette from Sault Ste. Marie in May 1866. When Venerable Bishop Baraga died, his remains were placed in a plain pine coffin and interred under the cathedral in a specially-made crypt near the Blessed Virgin altar.

Fire destroyed the cathedral in 1879. In 1897 a crypt with six niches was built in the southwest corner of the new sandstone cathedral. Venerable Baraga’s body was lifted into a steel casket and placed in the lower tier at the southeast corner of the crypt. Fire again destroyed the cathedral in 1935. A bishops’ chapel was added to the restored cathedral. A decision was made at this time to excavate the space under the chapel and build a crypt there. A distinct place of honor would be reserved for the body of Venerable Baraga, separated from the tombs of the other bishops.

The crypt has two rooms. As you enter the first room, there is an altar and prayer cards to Venerable Baraga. In the second room are the burial vaults with a place to kneel and pray for the Lord’s help through the intercession of Venerable Baraga. In 1959, the crypt was made more suitable for public visitation. Plaques were placed on each of the bishops’ tombs, a priedieu was set in place, there is a table for printed matter and a guest registry. Signs and improved lighting aided visitors.

In addition to Venerable Baraga, the remains of Bishops Mrak, Vertin, Eis, Magner, Noa and Schmitt lie in the crypt.


St. Peter Cathedral

St. Peter CathedralIn 1866, Bishop Frederic Baraga dedicated the first cathedral at the corner of Baraga Avenue and Fourth Street in Marquette, Mich. to Saint Peter, the Apostle. A fire destroyed it in 1879. The original sandstone cathedral was consecrated in 1890, and a rectory was built next to it during the 1890s. A second fire struck the cathedral in 1935, leaving only the outside walls standing. The building of the present cathedral began in 1936, was completed in 1938, and the formal dedication took place in the summer of 1939.

The new cathedral was larger in every way. The steeples were higher and adorned with colorful blue and red domes with raised crosses covered with gold leaf. The nave of the Church was extended and a Bishops chapel was added. Intricate grill work and furnishings of solid oak were installed in the sanctuary. Marble altars, as well as a bishop’s throne of marble adorned with the coat of arms of Bishop Plagens, were added. The body of the church was now supported by mammoth Romanesque columns. New stained glass windows portraying the mysteries of our Lord’s life were installed. New Stations of the Cross of intricate mosaic, framed in white marble, were added. The basement was redesigned as a modern hall complete with kitchen, storage and utility rooms to provide the parish with facilities for banquets and other activities with a capacity of 600 people.

The cathedral was completely redecorated in 1947 and the mural depicting Christ’s presentation of the keys to St. Peter was painted above the high altar. In the 1960s, alterations were undertaken to adhere to changes in liturgical worship brought about by the Vatican II Council. The high altar and the communion rail were no longer used. The steps of the sanctuary were extended and a wooden altar was placed there. Redecoration undertaken in 1981 included a general facelift, improved lighting, and bringing the altar closer to the congregation. The Blessed Sacrament was placed in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (formerly the Bishops Chapel).


Bishop Baraga Shrine

Bishop Baraga ShrineThe idea of a commemorative shrine for Venerable Bishop Frederic Baraga, the legendary Snowshoe Priest, had long been a goal for many in the Keweenaw area. Bernard Lambert, author of Shepard of the Wilderness, and a small group of area residents met in the summer of 1969 to discuss such a memorial. In December of that year, a foundation dedicated to the planning and creation of a religious-historical monument was formally organized. Membership was open to the public regardless of religious faith. It was clear that the Lord had elected to work through this vital group to achieve the prominence long deserved by Bishop Frederic Baraga.

L’Anse, meaning end of the bay in French was chosen as the site, since it was an area often traveled by Venerable Baraga. Jack E. Anderson, of Copper Country Arts in Lake Linden, Mich., presented a scale model of the proposed 60 foot high shrine inspired by Lambert’s book. It featured a 35 foot tall, hand-wrought brass statue of Venerable Baraga, holding a seven foot cross in his right hand and a 26-foot pair of snowshoes in his left. It would float on a silver cloud of stainless steel. Laminated wood beams would rise 25 feet from five concrete tepees representing missions established by Bishop Baraga. It would be set in a copse of birches on top of the red rocks overlooking Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Bay on land denoted by the Ellico family of L’Anse.

Anderson began his work in 1970 with co-sculptor Arthur Chaput Jr. The contract for the supporting base was awarded to the Yalmer Mattila Contracting Company of Houghton, Mich. Copper mined at the Copper Range Company’s White Pine Michigan mine was made into brass and donated by the mining company for the statue. The Upper Peninsula Power Company provided free technical assistance, and the Evergreen Nurseries of Allegan, Mich., donated a landscaping plan.

After many delays and frustrations, including a fire which ignited while the statue was being lowered into place, the statue was placed on the pedestal on June 14, 1972. It was dedicated on Sept. 16, 1973, as part of that year’s annual Bishop Baraga Day Mass. The blessing for the memorial was pronounced by the Most Rev. Charles A. Salatka, Bishop of the Diocese of Marquette and the eighth successor to Bishop Baraga. Reverend John Hascall, a Native American pastor in the diocese, concluded the rite with prayer and burning of sweet grass, a traditional ritual used by Native Americans for all blessings.


The Mission at Assinins

AssininsThe Catholic presence in L’Anse, Mich. dates from 1660 with the arrival of the Jesuit missionary, Father Renee Menard. In 1840, an early L’Anse settler named Pierre Crebassa wrote to Father Baraga at LaPorte, Wis. inviting him to come to the L’Anse area. Crebassa explained that a number of Native Americans came to him for readings from his old French Bible. Pierre Crebassa repeated his invitation every year until Father Baraga agreed to visit in early 1843. When he left in June, he encouraged Crebassa to carry on the work of the church.

This new L’Anse mission became one more stop in Father Baraga’s travels. However, this place of hardship turned to triumph for Father Baraga, when, in September of 1844, the Holy Name of Jesus Church was dedicated at the present site known as Assinins named after a chief baptized by Father Baraga.

L’Anse and Assinins were the home base of the priest’s labors from 1843 to 1853. A rectory built at the site became his home during frequent stops on his far-ranging travels to missions in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. On this site, he opened a school and helped build homes and a church, while at the same time writing his exhaustive Grammar and the Dictionary of the Ojibwa Language. Father Baraga was elevated to Bishop in 1853. He became the first bishop in upper Michigan.

At the original Assinins site is found a beautiful shrine to Baraga and the Native American parishioners, the old Assinins School where Father Baraga held classes and the cemetery where lie the remains of Chief Assinins, along with many of Baraga’s contemporaries.


The Baraga House

Baraga HouseThe Bishop Baraga House was built in 1855 adjacent to St. Peter Cathedral on Fourth Street. It had an exterior of white painted wood and was the residence for the pastor of the soon to be built church. It became the home of Bishop Baraga in 1866, when the headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of the Upper Peninsula was transferred to Marquette from Sault Ste. Marie. Bishop Frederic Baraga died in the front right room on Jan. 19, 1868.

In late 1872, the building was moved to its present location at 615 South Fourth Street, joined at the rear to another house, and became a private residence until its purchase by the Diocese of Marquette from the Estate of Wilfred Fleury in 1988. A sandstone brick was added to the exterior. Some changes were made to the interior room arrangement. Both the interior Italianate decor and the external brick are considered historic.


The Indian Lake Mission Chapel

WindowIn 1832, a young Catholic missionary, Father Frederic Baraga, arrived at Indian Lake, north of Manistique Mich. and found that the local Native Americans had already started to build a small church. He dedicated it to the Honor of God, in the name of his Virgin Mother Mary, fulfilling a vow he made that the first church he blessed among the Native Americans will be dedicated to her name. During the summer he baptized 31 Native Americans. A larger church was built under his direction in 1833.

The present chapel is 18 foot by 16 foot in size, made from red and white pine logs. The floor is made of local limestone and the roof is made of cedar shakes. The Stations of the Cross, depicted on leather, hang on the walls of the chapel. The plans for the chapel and surrounding appurtenances were drawn up by Patrick McNamara, a native of Manistique. The site was cleared in the summer of 1982, and during the school year the building trades class of Manistique High School, supervised by Ted Foye, built the chapel. The colored glass window was donated by Msgr. F. M. Scheringer, the bell by the St. Teresa Parish of Germfask, and the wood carving of the Last Supper by Lionel Radofski of Clawson, Mich. and the stone by James A. Miller of Manistique. Other dwellings at the site are the oval, dome-shaped wigwam, sometimes called the hogan, and the tipi which was used in warmer weather or for temporary use. In 1984, a grotto was constructed to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. A 30 foot copper cross reaches high to the sky as the latest addition to the shrine.

The site also contains an Indian burial ground, which contains the remains of Chief Ossawinarnakee, his son, and other tribal members. The burial ground was built near the water facing west and a path from the water’s edge was always kept clear. The Native Americans were also buried facing west. Upon the death of an Native American, the body was wrapped in a very heavy birch bark, tied with basswood cord, and then placed in a shallow grave over which was placed the spirit house. The houses varied in size and shape. A totem stick identified the deceased and gave any passerby pertinent information about the person. Because it was believed that the four-day journey to the Land of Ponemah was filled with peace and plenty, sufficient food and drink were placed in the spirit house along with the body of the deceased person’s dog or some other friendly animal.

Bishop Baraga Association

615 S. Fourth Street - Marquette MI 49855
(906) 227-9117 - bishopbaragaassoc@gmail.com

Diocese of Marquette ~ 1004 Harbor Hills Drive, Marquette, MI 49855-8851 ~ (906) 225-1141