Baraga Pilgrimage

A Pilgrimage to Historic Sites from the Life of
Venerable Frederic Baraga


Bishop Frederic Baraga

Bishop Frederic Baraga was a great missionary figure of the American Church who was born in Slovenia on June 29, 1797. Nine years a priest, he came to the United States in 1830 to devote his life to the Indians of the Upper Great Lakes. He is truly called the Apostle of the Lakelands.

Baraga's labors began among the Ottawa in Lower Michigan near Little Traverse Bay. Two years later, he moved to the pioneer site of Grand Rapids where he established another successful mission. In 1835, the great missionary left there for LaPointe, an island village in Lake Superior, off the coast of northern Wisconsin. There he began his monumental labors among the Chippewa tribes. His last major mission was founded in 1843 at Assinins, near present-day Baraga ( Michigan ) on upper Michigan 's Keweenaw Bay, where he remained until his consecration as First Bishop of upper Michigan and adjacent islands in 1853.

For 37 years Baraga moved about in a vast triangular territory of over 80,000 square miles including areas of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada. His only goal was to make God known and loved by all men. Totally devoted to the Indians, he learned to speak their languages with amazing fluency and went to them wherever they were.

Bishop Baraga died on January 18, 1868 after a life filled with exalted heroism and undiminished zeal for souls. The remains of this great missionary rest in a crypt in St. Peter's Cathedral at Marquette, Michigan. A canonical investigation has been made into his life and labors to promote his beatification, and his Cause for Canonization has been presented to the Congregation of Saints in Rome. Pray the Cause of Bishop Baraga may find favor with God.

Your Pilgrimage Journey

With the exception of the City of Marquette, the Baraga sites are clustered primarily in the eastern and western part of the diocese, and always near the water, as there were no highways on land in Baraga's time. You might choose one particular site or several sites on the same trip. Some folks might choose to visit an eastern or western cluster of pilgrimage sites. Each site is near the location of a church, for those who wish to attend Mass.


Sault Ste. Marie is located on I-75 just south of the International Bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada. Sault Ste. Marie, the oldest city in Michigan, as well as the third oldest in the United States, stand as one of the earliest French Catholic outposts founded by missionaries on the Great Lakes. Generations before, this ground had already become hallowed as a meeting place by Indian people of the great northern waters. St. Isaac Jogues, S.J., offered the first mass here in 1641, and a short time afterward Pere Jacques Marquette, S.J., discoverer of the Mississippi, spoke his final vows as a Jesuit in this settlement

Some two hundred years later, this city became the seat of the Catholic diocese when Bishop Baraga made St. Mary's Church his first cathedral. Bishop Baraga continued to live here from 1853 to 1856 and his former residence stand today on “History Row” along the St. Mary's River

St Mary's Church

St. Mary's Church is located just northeast of the downtown on Portage Street. “History Row” is nearby. The current Holy Name of Mary Pro-Cathedral, popularly known as St. Mary's, is the fifth structure since 1668. It is the “mother Church” of our diocese. St. Mary's was the first cathedral parish of what is now the Diocese of Marquette. St. Mary's parish has the distinction of being the third oldest Catholic parish in the United States.

The fourth church, built of logs in 1837, became the cathedral church when the Upper Peninsula was designated as the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie by the Vatican in 1857. The first bishop of the diocese, Frederic Baraga, had his church extended and remodeled and it stood until 1880 when it was razed to make room for the present church, a gothic revival-style church designed by Joseph Connolly of Toronto. The present church is a wood structure with brick veneer. It was lighted by kerosene lamps and heated by coal stoves. Construction begun in June 1881 and the first mass was offered on Christmas Day in 1891. Bishop Vertin, then Bishop of Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie, dedicated the church to the Holy Name of Mary in September 1882. St. Mary's was renovated and restored in 1987 and rededicated by Bishop Schmitt on September 6, 1987. Extensive structural repairs including a complete esthetic facelift were made to the inside of the church in 1996.

Artifacts of Bishop Frederic Baraga, the saintly man, who was the first bishop of the Upper Peninsula, lies just inside the east side entrance to the church. Items include some of the books he authored, snowshoes, trunk, and furniture used by him. Visitors are greeted by a beautiful statue of our Blessed Mother as they enter the church from the north side. At one time, it rested in the sanctuary on a pedestal between the two windows.

Attached to the church is a multipurpose room now called the “ Mary Room.” At one time it was a chapel where services were held in the winter. At the south end of the room is a precious stained glass window that Bishop Baraga had sent from Belgium for his Cathedral. The window represents our Lady of Sorrows and is affectionately called “Our Lady of the Thumb.” 


Sugar Island is located east of Sault Ste. Marie in the St. Mary's River. The ferry service dock is found at the end of Portage Street, in Sault Ste. Marie, and is available 24 hours. Sugar Island was named for the massive stands of Maple trees from which sugar and syrup were harvested by natives and early settlers. Baraga often ministered to Native Peoples here, building four churches on the island. Wildlife including moose, wolves and heron may be encountered here and many Native Americans live on the Island. 


St. Ignace is located at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge at the crossroads of US 2 and I-75. St. Ignace is the second oldest city in Michigan, and is named for Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, and has been welcoming pilgrims since 1670, when it was settled by Pere Jacques Marquette and a band of Ojibwa. Bishop Baraga ministered here on frequent visits as he moved through the Straits of Mackinac.

The original St. Ignatius Church building is now the Museum of Ojibwa Culture found in Father Marquette Mission Park on the lakeshore in town. The museum building was built in 1837. It contains informative displays of Ojibwa and Huron life as well as the lives of Fr. Baraga and Fr. Marquette. The present parish church of St. Ignatius is found up the hill at 120 Church Street and houses, among other prized items from the past, a famous painting of St. Ignatius by Slovenian artist, Mateus Langus, brought by Baraga from his native land 1837. The Marquette National Memorial and Museum, found in a stunning setting overlooking the Straits of Mackinac and located southwest of the city on US 2. You will discover exhibits on the life of Father Marquette and his coming to New France and to St. Ignace. 


Mackinac Island can be reached by ferry service from St. Ignace or Mackinac City from May through October. Mackinac Island has been a festive center of travel and commerce for more than three hundred years, and was a regular stopping place for Bishop Baraga. Bishop Fenwick of Cincinnati and Fr. Gabriel Richard of Detroit also visited this area in the 1820s and 1830s.

Although Baraga first arrived here in 1831, the Catholic Church of St. Ann has parish records dating from 1695. Rebuilt and completely restored, the beautiful parish church of St. Ann still serves the needs of residents and visitors to the island. You may want to visit the lovely historical museum located on the lower level of St. Ann Church. 


Manistique is located on US 2. St. Francis DeSales Church is located in Manistique at 330 Oak Street.. It is known for its stained-glass windows including one of Frederic Baraga carrying a bible, a cross and a tomahawk. There is also an Indian “Tipi.” Other windows feature St. Francis DeSales, St. Peter, St. Francis, St. Therese, and Mary, Mother of God, with child. 


Indian Lake State Park is located northeast of Manistique on M-94 and one mile west. Indian Lake is the site of Bishop Baraga's first mission in upper Michigan. Leaving Cross Village, south of the straits, he canoed across Lake Michigan toward the Manistique area in 1832.

In 1832, a young Catholic missionary, Fr. Frederick Baraga, arrived at Indian Lake and found that the local Indians 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 Indians would be dedicated to her name. During the summer he baptized 31 Indians. A larger church was built under his direction in 1833.

The present chapel is 18' x 16' 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, the wood carving of the Last Supper by Lionel Radolfski of Clawson, Michigan, and the stone by James A. Miller of Manistique, Michigan. 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 in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A 30 foot cooper 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 Ossawinamakee, 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 Indians were also buried facing west. Upon the death of an Indian, 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. 


Houghton and Hancock are located in the Keweenaw Peninsula where M-26 and US 41 join. Houghton and Hancock anchor the northern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula and mark the heart of the “Copper Country” as a center of activity for Bishop Baraga. Houghton is a busy and interesting community with an attractive waterfront. Hancock, north across the canal from Houghton, was a truly crowded bustling community in Baraga's time.

St. Ignatius Loyola Church at 305 Portage Street, has the distinction of having been dedicated by Bishop Baraga in 1859.

The Church of the Resurrection, at 900 Quincy Street in Hancock has a striking grave marker to mark the remains of Fr. Edward Jacker, a close and trusted friend of Bishop Baraga, who assumed his duties upon the bishop's death until a successor was appointed. 


Eagle Harbor is located on M-26 in the Keweenaw Peninsula, and Copper Harbor is located on US-41 at the northernmost tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor were center of copper export during the mid-to-late nineteenth century and brought to the area the kind of population and social concerns a missionary might associate with sailing ports.

Holy Redeemer Mission Church in Eagle Harbor, was built in 1854 on land purchased by Frederic Baraga in 1852. It is thought that Father Baraga was at this site when he learned of his confirmation by the Pope of his nomination as Bishop of Upper Michigan on October 6, 1853. It is the oldest of the remaining churches actually built by Bishop Baraga still in use and in the Diocese of Marquette.

Our Lady of the Pines Mission is located in Copper Harbor. Copper Harbor sights include the Estivant pines, which pre-date Baraga by several centuries, and the Living History Museum at Fort Wilkins State Park which depicts the conditions during the time when Bishop Baraga worked in the area. 


Ontonagon is located at the western base of the Keweenaw Peninsula on the lake shore where M-107, M-38, and US 45 intersect. Rockland is found about 15 miles south on Us 45 at M-26. Ontonagon and Rockland served the early German settlers who came to work the Minnesota and Norwich mines. Bishop Baraga came to old St. Patrick's Church, located near the lake shore, to celebrate confirmation with both Native Americans and German settlers.

The ruins of the Norwich mine and of the old St. Francis Xavier Church can be found on Norwich Road in Ontonagon. Holy Family Church in Ontonagon is located at 515 Pine Street.

The oldest organ in the Upper Peninsula still in use for liturgy can be found at St. Mary Church in Rockland. Bishop Baraga purchased the instrument in 1859, and it has been restored with care and devotion. 


L'Anse is tucked away inside the southern tip of Keweenaw Bay and Assinins is several miles north on US 41, turning west up the hill at the Assinins sign, just north of the town of Baraga.

The Catholic presence in L'Anse dates from 1660 with the arrival of Fr. Rene Menard, SJ. Sacred Heart Church is located at 16 South 6 th Street. The cornerstone tells of its construction in 1894.

The idea of a commemorative shrine for 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. The Shrine of the “Snowshoe Priest” was created and erected because of their efforts.

L'Anse, meaning “end of the bay” in French, was chosen as the site, since it was an area often traveled by Baraga. Jack E. Anderson, of Copper Country Arts in Lake Linden, Michigan, 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 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 set on top of the red rocks overlooking Lake Superior 's Keweenaw Bay on land donated by the Patrick 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, Michigan. 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, Michigan, 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 September 16, 1973, as part of that year's annual Bishop Baraga Day Mass. The blessing for the memorial was pronounced by the Most Reverend 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 Marquette Diocese, concluded the rite with prayer and burning of sweet grass, a traditional ritual used by Native Americans for all blessing. The Shrine site is nearby to the trail used by the local Ojibwa and Bishop Baraga during his travels.

As one drives up the windy road to the original Assinins site you are greeted by a beautiful white statue of Fr. Baraga and two Ojibwa children, the old Assinins School, and the present church. The cemetery is in the woods, north of the school house adjacent to the property. Here lie the remains of Chief Assinins, along with many of Baraga's contemporaries and the sisters of St. Joseph that served the orphanage formally at this location.

In 1840 an early L'Anse settler name Pierre Crebassa wrote to Father Baraga at LaPointe, Wisconsin, inviting him to come to the L'Anse area. Crebassa explained that a number of Indians 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 into 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 the 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 Baraga's 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. 


Marquette is located on the southern shore of Lake Superior. Marquette is equal distance from the eastern and western points of the diocese; about 160 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie, and 150 miles east of Ironwood. Marquette is the largest center of population in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and became the seat of the Catholic Diocese as the population developed away from Sault Ste. Marie. Hancock was considered as the See of the Diocese because of its size (then three times the size of Marquette ) and its importance with the mining industry, but Marquette was chosen as it had a church suitable for a bishop and a residence and its central location. Bishop Baraga's earthly life ended in Marquette. The town founders declared a Civic day of mourning and in the presence of most of the city's population, his body was laid to rest there while a severe late-January blizzard swirled about the large congregation.

Bishop Baraga's precious remains were placed in a plain pine coffin and interred under the Cathedral in a specially-made crypt near the Blessed Virgin altar. In 1897 a crypt with six niches was built in the southwest corner of the new sandstone Cathedral after the fire in 1879. Bishop Baraga's body was lifted into a steel casket and placed in the lower tier at the southeast corner of the crypt. When fire again destroyed the Cathedral in 1935, a Bishop's 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 Bishop Baraga. The remains of Bishops Mrak, Vertin, Eis, Magner and Noa also lie in the crypt.

The crypt has two rooms. As you enter the first room, there is an altar honoring Bishop Baraga and prayer cards. In the second room are the burial vaults with a place to kneel and pray.

The first St. Peter's Church was a white wooden structure built in 1855. A larger church with a stone foundation was completed in 1866, and Bishop Frederic Baraga dedicated the Cathedral to St. Peter, the Apostle, when the bishop moved to Marquette from Sault Ste. Marie in May 1866. A fire destroyed it in 1879. The original sandstone Cathedral was consecrated in 1890, and a rectory was built next to it during the 1890's. A second fire struck the Cathedral in 1935, leaving only the outside walls standing. The building of the present Cathedral began in 1936 and the building was completed in 1938. 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 name of the church was extended and a Bishop's chapel was added. Intricate grill work and furnishings of solid oak were installed in the sanctuary. Marble altars, as well as a Bishop's cathedra of marble adorned with the coat of arms of Bishop Plagens, were added. Mammoth Romanesque columns were added to help support the roof. 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 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 the altar was brought closer to the congregation. The Blessed Sacrament was placed in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (formerly the Bishop's Chapel).

The Bishop Baraga House was built in 1855 on the site of the present Diocesan Pastoral Office adjacent to St. Peter's 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 January 19, 1868.

In late 1872, the building was moved to its present location at 615 S. 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 in the interior room arrangement. Both the interior Italianate décor and the external brick are considered historic.

Additional Bishop Frederic Baraga Sites

Fr. Baraga had missions at Arbre Croche and the Harbor Springs area of Lower Michigan. Remains of his work can be seen in the Museum at Cross Village and the church at Harbor Springs which is home to a Mathis Langus Painting brought by Fr. Baraga. Bishop Baraga visited Beaver Island, Burt Lake, Cheboygan and Alpena among other towns.

His second mission was in Grand River, present day Grand Rapids. He then moved to LaPointe on Madeline Island near present day, Ashland, Wisconsin and Bayfield. Bishop Baraga traveled to Minnesota where he erected a cross at Schroeder Minnesota a granite cross replaced the wooden one erected by Bishop Baraga and many people visit that site where in perilous water, Fr. Baraga and his guide were thankful for their safe arrival on the shore.

Slovenia received her independence in 1991 and is the homeland of Bishop Frederic Baraga. Many memorials still exist in his homeland to commemorate his great life. A bronze relief depicts him on the door to the Cathedral in Ljubljana, Baraga's portrait, paintings of the good shepherd and plaques to him are visible throughout the country side.


Bishop Baraga Association

615 S. Fourth Street - Marquette MI 49855
(906) 227-9117 -​

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