On a hosted visit to Perry County, Keith and I were finding faith in many places along the trail. Trish Erzfeld, Perry County Tourism Director took us to many places. We learned that history of both the Lutheran and Catholic denominations run deep in these gently rolling hills. No matter what your religious background, you too may enjoy this peace and history. Perry County entwines religious freedom and faith in their museums, churches, walks, and memorials.
Saxon Lutheran Memorial
The Saxon Lutheran Memorial checks off two lists for Keith and I. This outdoor history museum documents early migration and settlement of Lutherans from Saxony, Germany. There is a statue of Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther. The plaque describes that these Saxon Lutherans emigrated first to St. Louis, then to Perry County in 1839. As Lutheran’s this was a place where were finding faith along the way!
Walther emerged as a Lutheran leader among the group of Saxon Lutherans. He became known as the “American Luther”.
For us the lure of this lovely place is the farm history that accompanies the site. Located on the Bergt Farm Complex, since 1964, the site has been on the National Historic Register. Trish said, “Saxon Lutheran’s came here and settled.”
This site shares the farming and growing history. Trish added, “The buildings are hand-hewn.”
With barns, cabins, a blacksmith shop and a machine shed full of antique equipment, we wanted to come back to their fall festival. Usually held the 2nd Saturday in October, this year it is cancelled due to COVID-19. “The yard is filled with crafts, weavers, apple butter and more,” Trish added.
I would also love to visit during the Live Nativity Event in December!
If you want a tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Note it make take a bit because all staff are volunteer. Located in Frohna, Missouri, call 573-824-5404 if you don’t get a response by email.
Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum
“If you are German in the US, you can come here to do research and they don’t charge you to do research and visit,” Faron Bartens, the intern shared during out tour of this beautiful museum and historic site.
This area had the largest German immigration in Missouri with 700 Germans arriving in three ships! The Presbyterians in Brazell helped the German’s settle into the area, Faron shared. Their kindness helped ease the Lutherans arrival.
The museum in Altenberg, Missouri is very interesting detailing the history of Lutheran’s that arrived in 1836. Perhaps the most fascinating item to see though is the very first log cabin college west of the Mississippi!
Carla Jordan, Director of the Museum said they are adding on to their display area. “We have been a non-profit historic site since 1910.”
Carla added that they have a Christmas Nativity Scene with 200 to view and this should not be missed!
While the museum and the log cabin college were riveting, what really caught me, was the tour that Faron and fellow volunteer Gerald Fiehler took us on of the adjacent church.
Inside the church we Gerald pushed a button and we heard the amazing organ play! We also were able to see a chalice and crucifix that were brought to America from Germany with the Lutheran immigrants! The chalice had been a gift from a Polish countess that could not make the journey.
To visit, call 573-824-6070 the museum is open daily from 10-4 and there is a nice gift shop on site.
Shrine of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal
Frank Ryan took Trish and Keith and I on an amazing tour of the nationally recognized Shrine of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and St. Mary’s of the Barren Church. The church, located in Perryville, Missouri, is modeled after the Vicentian Motherhouse chapel in Rome, Monte Citori. “This church dates to 1827,” Frank Ryan shared.
A Catholic Bishop he explained had recruited Priests to come from Europe to the US. The group was first in Bardstown, Kentucky where a group of Catholic families offered 640 acres of land. Soon the priests moved to the area, acquired a Spanish land grant and built a Seminary. It made sense for the locals to help. Frank said, “They wanted a priest here all the time.”
They were used to having a full time priest while in Europe and now they had to rely on a traveling priest. Frank Ryan said, “The priests have now been here for over 200 years.”
Onsite is the first church, a log cabin church which reminded us of the Lutheran log cabin college. Now it is a sacristy area.
The church which we toured started in 1827 and was finished in 1837. Words can’t describe how beautiful this church is. It is a consecrated church which we learned must be, debt free, built from permanent material, and not used for any other purpose. This is the first consecrated church west of the Mississippi.
The church has six side chapels representing the Daughters of Charity. Mary of the Miraculous Medal is a medal design that was given to St. Catherine by Mary and the medal is to be given to people in spiritual need which encompasses us all.
Finding faith along the trail was easy at this site as I could literally feel God’s love in the chapel during our tour. A look into the votive room where flickering lights represent prayers of hundreds shared the power of prayers being lifted daily, hourly and by the minute.
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The Rosary Walk and Grotto
Along with the church, this site also has a beautiful Rosary walk. The walk is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and see beautiful art. You can also see the story of the apparitions of Mary as she appeared before St. Catherine.
There is a recently restored grotto that was built over 100 years ago and one of my favorite sights was the circle of Mary of the Medallion statues from around the world. Then behind the statues is a recent addition, a field of zinnias!
Keith’s favorite stop was the burial spot of a now famous priest. Father Oscar L. Huber administered the last rites to President John F. Kennedy when he was killed in Dallas.
To find out more about the National Shrine of our Lady of Miraculous -Medal & St. Mary’s of the Barren Church call 800-264-MARY or 573-547-2508.
Finding faith along the trail in Perry County Missouri through the history is an easy thing to do. There are many other churches and historical sites that we missed. That just makes me want to come back and see more down the road!