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Cross in the Woods.
Cross in the Woods.

Giant Crucifix and Nun Doll Museum

Field review by the editors.

Indian River, Michigan

Upstart Protestants may claim America as their turf, but a visit to The Cross in the Woods Shrine shows that Catholicism isn't ready to give up the Holy Ghost just yet. Followers of all religions are invited to visit this striking interdenominational landmark in northern Michigan.

The focal point of the shrine is "The Cross in the Woods," which technically is The Crucifix in the Woods since it has Jesus nailed to it. It's a hard thing to miss. The crucifix stands 55 feet tall and weighs 21 tons (a rival crucifix in Bardstown, KY, towers five feet higher -- but it's not as pretty). The cross was carved from a single redwood tree in 1953. Jesus arrived six years later -- on August 9, 1959 -- sculpted by Marshall Fredericks: seven tons of bronze stretching 28 feet. Fredericks gave Jesus an unusually peaceful expression, and had to get special permission from the Vatican to sculpt him without the usual crown of thorns.

Organ and bell music was once piped over the Shrine grounds, but no longer. Perhaps the quiet lends an even more reverential air at the cancer saint monument (the Shrine has tidied up St. Peregrine's bloody bandage), the Our Lady of The Highway Shrine, and the All Faiths Gift Shoppe.

Riding the turtle surf.
Nun doll with bat.

The Shrine includes a Nun Doll Museum -- the world's largest, with 525 dolls modelling 217 different religious order habits, plus dioramas of nuns at work, and 21 life-size dummies of women and men dressed in Roman Catholic attire. Donors to this museum have received official blessings from a sainted Pope: "His holiness Pope John Paul II Vicar of Jesus Christ imparts his Apostolic Benediction upon Sally and Wallace Rogalski for their undertaking in promoting vocations to the Priesthood and Religious life through the world famous Catholic Shrine Doll Museum, 1988."

Walk through this place and you can't help grinning when you see many of your sister's old dolls dressed up as nuns. The summer camp group on our tour couldn't help it either. "Hey, it's Father Ken!" "Settle down." "Where's the Flying Nun?" "I told you -- settle down now or you go outside."

There is a museum about the life and work of Marshall Fredericks on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University, Saginaw, Michigan. According to Geoffery Haney, a docent there, "We have the plaster original [for the Christ figure] on display in our museum -- all 28 feet of it --plus hundreds of Mr. Fredericks sculptures. Mr. Fredericks was commissioned by that church in Indian River to the sum of $38,000. The church was not expecting such a huge piece, but Mr. Fredericks contributed an additional $125,000 to make it the largest in the world at that time."

Giant Crucifix and Nun Doll Museum

7078 M-68, Indian River, MI
The Cross in the Woods. I-75 to exit 310 (Indian River). Follow Hwy 68 west, and make a right where it separates from Hwy 27. The Cross in the Woods Shrine will be on your right.
Museum summer daily 9-6, off-season 10-3. Gift shop daily 9-5. Cross accessible any time. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

32-Foot-Long Steel Sturgeon32-Foot-Long Steel Sturgeon, Indian River, MI - < 1 mi.
Man Killing Clam!Man Killing Clam!, Cheboygan, MI - 16 mi.
Archangel GrottoArchangel Grotto, Petoskey, MI - 10 mi.
In the region:
Giant Hot Dog, Mackinaw City, MI - 27 mi.

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