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Door County has deep spiritual roots. It’s a place where many communities still reflect the religious beliefs of their earliest settlers both in architectural style and personality.
While those looking to practice their faith can find a full range of options with this list, those looking for an exploration of spirituality and history can find a diverse array of sites to immerse yourself in as well.
This spiritual itinerary for Door County includes many sites with historical or architectural importance, or reflect re-imagined possibilities for old buildings.
Start in Southern Door by visiting two of the most unique chapels you’ll ever find. The Chapel of Our Lady and St. Odile’s are Belgian roadside chapels, tiny churches built by Belgian settlers because it was too difficult to travel long distances for mass as they migrated north from the Green Bay area.
Families built small chapels, many of which remain accessible today. St. Odile’s stands out for its more intricate design, created by a stone mason. The lengths the resilient Belgians went to practice their faith in these tiny shrines is inspiring.
While you’re here, stop by the Belgian Heritage Center, which was once a church itself and now is home to stories of the history of America’s largest Belgian settlement. Learn how they overcame tragedy and difficult farming to get a foothold in America.
In Egg Harbor, visit Stella Maris St. John the Baptist Catholic church, made of a combination of locally quarried dolomite and fieldstone. It’s one of two unique stone churches in the village. The other is the out-of-use Calvary United Methodist Church on the north end of the village, which dates to 1924.
In Fish Creek, the Church of Atonement is the oldest church in Fish Creek, and maintains the look and feel of its original construction. A Carpenter Gothic Episcopal summer chapel within the Episcopal Diocese of Fon Du Lac, it’s found at the edge of Cottage Row and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pair a visit here with a trip to the White Gull Inn for breakfast, or a sunset at Sunset Park a few steps away, a spiritual experience of another kind.
Perhaps no community is grounded in its history as deeply as Ephraim, and its spiritual centers are a rich part of that. The Ephraim Moravian Church is the oldest in the county; construction started in 1857 and it was finished by December of 1859. The church is still used today and its steeple is a distinctive element of many photos of Ephraim. You can learn more by joining on of the Moravian Heritage tours or other walking tours offered by the Ephraim Historical Foundation.
Some of Door County’s spiritual centers have found new life with spirits of another sort. The restaurant LURE was once home to the St. Rosalia’s Catholic Church and mission. It has been significantly renovated, but the exterior and interior of the building does still have some architectural nods back to its origins as a church.
The Linden Gallery is another Door County church that survives today in a new incarnation. The gallery is housed in what was once the Ellison Bay Lutheran Church.
The Linden family now runs an acclaimed gallery out of it that features Asian art, artists, and antiques, open May through October. The Lindens go to China in the winter, where they run the Linden Centre, a place of cultural immersion where visitors can learn more about China and Yunnan Province (location of the centre) history and culture.
About 10 minutes north of Ellison Bay you can take the ferry across Death’s Door to Washington Island to visit one of Door County’s most unique pieces of architecture, the Stavkirke. Though relatively new, this church is based on classic Norwegian building techniques and styles from the early 1000s. It features both Christian and Pagan symbols carved into the wood, and is an indicator of the influence of early Scandinavian settlers in Northern Door.
The church is now only open for summer services but the building is occasionally used in the winter for events such as sing-alongs around Christmas.
Head back down the peninsula’s eastern shore to Baileys Harbor, where you’ll find Boynton Chapel on the Bjorklunden campus, another chapel built in the Stavkirke tradition between 1939 and 1947. Handcrafted by Winifred and Donald Boynton on the grounds of their summer residence, the chapel is modeled after the Garmo stave church at Maihaugen in Lillehammer, Norway.
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