By: Dawn of Michigan Ghosts
Nestled in the rolling hills of Michigan’s Irish Hills is a beautiful spot many people don’t even know exists. I am talking about St.Josephs Shrine, a fascinating and unique structure built into the side of a steep hill next to Iron Lake.
Most of the original stations, built between 1932 and 1936, are still standing. All of the original mosaic tiles still exist. Located at the site of an early religious settlement established in the late 1790s by Father Gabriel Richard, minister to the Potawatomi Indians. The church is a combination of the original fieldstone chapel, erected by Irish settlers in the mid-1840s, and a 1929 addition.
As part of the 1929 expansion, the shrine inspired by the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, was added to the historic church and cemetery. In 1932 work began on the 14 outdoor stations of the cross, which depict scenes of the Via Dolorosa (the sorrowful way) that Jesus walked to Calvary.
Mexican artisans sculpted the wet cement to resemble the steps, arch ways and pathways to resemble trees, an art form that can also be seen in the many bridges at McCourtie Park, in Somerset, MI.
Shells, mosaic tiles, and semi-precious stones are used in many of the stations as you traverse along the pathways.
Through the years, much damage has been done, although the church is doing its best to rebuild and uphold what is still there, and it is an inspiring and interesting site for anyone to explore, though not handicap accessible.
Along with the Shrine of the Hills, the Church itself is a fascinating historical sight, as is the adjacent cemetery. St. Josephs was originally a missionary starting in the 1850’s. Priests from Adrian, Clinton, Manchester, Tecumseh, and Monroe all served the parish here until its first permanent priest arrived in 1954.
The original church, which still stands, was erected in 1854.
If you are interested in history, religion, cemeteries, art work, or Spanish architecture, I recommend a day trip to St. Jospehs Shrine, in Irish Hills Michigan. You will not regret this truly unique experience.