Maria Stein Shrine

Article about the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics.

  • Open: Heritage Museum is open Mon – Thr from 9:30 am – 6pm and Fri & Sat until 4pm
  • Location: (Map It) 2291 St. Johns Road, Maria Stein, Ohio
  • Phone: 419-925-4532
  • Web:

The Maria Stein Center in Maria Stein, Ohio: Housed in a beautiful chapel built in 1892, the collection, with over 1000 relics on display, is the second largest collection of its type in the United States (after St. Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburg). In addition to the permanent displays, the Maria Stein Heritage Museum features exhibits which change annually.  A few examples of these expositions include: early homes of the region, lace making, presentations by local artists and craftspeople, and a quilt collection.  Such exhibitions make each visit to the Maria Stein Heritage Museum a new and exciting experience.

Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler

cross-tipped_churchesLooking at the quiet, lush farm land, with neat homesteads and the silhouette of silos on the horizon, gives no evidence of the harsh forest and swamp that the early German settlers contended with on their arrival in the mid 1830’s.  Many were Catholic and understood their need for help from God to survive.  Their deep faith urged them to build churches, where they met despite the fact that they had no clerical minister to serve them.  They gathered in prayer to support one another so they could cope with the hardships and fears they faced in the dark, deep woods.  These churches, which now dot the landscape some three miles apart and make up the Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches State Scenic Byway, were built in such close proximity because of the difficult travel with a horse and wagon through the swamp and forest.

Bishop Purcell became aware of the needs of these humble German speaking people, and when in Rome, he searched for a German speaking missionary who would be willing to come to America to serve these valiant folk.  Fr. Francis de Sales Brunner, a Swiss priest who had become a Precious Blood Missionary encountered Bishop Purcell and offered to come to Ohio, rather than to Africa, where he had anticipated going.   

This courageous priest was born in the small rural town in the north western corner of Switzerland, not far from Mariastein.  After Fr. Francis De Sales Brunner became a priest he and his Mother, Maria Anna Brunner, established a community of Women Religious which were named “Sisters of the Precious Blood”. 

In 1843 Fr. Brunner, along with seven Priests and seven Religious Brothers, came to America to serve the German immigrants in north western Ohio. In 1844, six Sisters of the Precious Blood arrived in this new land and began their nightly vigils of prayer in the wilderness.   

In 1846 the Sisters came to what was then called St. Johns.  The convent, built a half mile from St. John church became the first permanent Mother House of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. Maria Stein was the name given the convent after Mariastein in Switzerland, where Fr. Brunner had studied. In time that name replaced St. Johns to identify the whole surrounding area.   

Sisters have prayed and ministered at Maria Stein without interruption since their arrival.  In the early years their life was quite simple – a life of prayer and manual labor.  The Sisters and Brothers did all the practical things to keep a large community flourishing. This freed the priests to devote themselves to the spiritual care of the German speaking people of the area.   

Today the main attraction is the ornate Shrine Chapel which was built in 1890. In the niches of the beautifully carved wooden alters are a thousand relics of Men and Women who lived lives of exceptional holiness. Honoring the Saints with their relics was a common way of expressing devotion to the Saints.  Fr. Francis de Sales Brunner was an ardent collector of relics.  He brought a few with him on his first voyage to America. In 1845 he was presented with a gift of 600 relics.  In 1875 A collection of 175 relics were brought to Maria Stein and placed in the care of the Sisters.  Relics of more recent Saints have been added, some of which are those of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Maximilian Kolbe, Damian of Molokai, Pope John XXIII, and various others.   

Devotion to Saints, or the Holy Ones who have gone before us, is a tradition that lies within the human heart.  As far back as in the Old Testament, Joseph, speaking to the Israelite people, petitioned them to take his bones with them when they would leave Egypt. Chapter 11 of Exodus states that Moses took the bones of Joseph with him when they entered the Promised Land.  The practice of visiting departed loved ones in a cemetery shows the same reverence as given to relics of the saints. 

For the many that come and enter the quiet of the chapels, peace returns to their lives. It is a place where energies are renewed. It is where the cares, problems and worries of daily life can be   placed in God’s hands. For many, healing of mind and spirit are sought and obtained.  This tranquil country setting allows the heart and soul to find respite from the turbulence of fast living. It is where peace and serenity can return to the mind and spirit and be renewed and strengthened. 

In the old convent building there is a gift shop located on the first floor. It carries many articles of devotion, statues etc.  On the second floor, there is a museum with a history of the Sisters and early rural life in Mercer County.  The outside patio has pictures of the area churches that dot the country side hanging on the walls. A statue garden of various Saints provides a quiet place for reflection and prayer.   

The National Marian Shrine of the Holy Relics, a place of peace where all are welcome, is located at 2291 St. Johns Road, Maria Stein, Ohio. They are open Tuesdays through Sundays, noon to 4:30, closed Mondays and Holidays.