Two years ago when the economy took a dip the Cleveland Catholic Diocese closed dozens of churches in the city. Lou McClung, who loved statues as a kid, was so moved, he bought many of the unwanted statues and stored them in St. Hedwig’s, a small Catholic Church he acquired in an off-beat area of Lakewood, Ohio.
It was there the make-up artist turned self-taught craftsmen founded The Museum Of Divine Statues, now a non-profit museum where 80 of the rescued and restored statues are on display.
When I spoke with the McClung, his passion was evident. He blew through his savings to create what he calls a “reflective and reverential” space for the preservation of the town’s Catholic history. Each and every statue he has restored honors those who immigrated to Cleveland (his ancestors included) and sought comfort in building communities around their churches.
All the statues are made of marble, wood or plaster with the oldest statue dating back to 1855 with the restoration of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The museum displays a variety of relics, painting, and artifacts – most notably a collection of stained glass windows on its walls.
Visitors can also “sponsor a statue” to honor a family member or remember a loved one for a fixed donation that varies depending on age, subject matter, original condition, and construction material. I read about each statue’s origin, its dedication and marveled at the intricate designs and fluidity of the work.
Not religious? Don’t be so quick to check this off your itinerary. Anyone can appreciate the absolute serenity of the museum. In fact, given the themes of peace and restoration, it’s the perfect place to catch your bearings, learn a thing or two, and recharge for the rest of the day.
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