The statue of Bishop Baraga holding the Cross was an idea of County Clerk Bernard Lambert. Lambert got together with another L’Anse resident, Pat Ellico, who donated the land for the Shrine. Jack Anderson, an outstanding metal sculptor from Lake Linden, MI., was the sculptor chosen in 1968 to create the statue. The concept of a shrine, located between L'Anse and Baraga on Keweenaw Bay, began in the mid-1960s.
Lambert was also the county historian and author of the book Shepherd of the Wilderness, an account of the snowshoe priest who came to Baraga County from Slovenian in 1843. He founded what became the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette and converted roughly 25,000 Chippewa Natives to Christianity.
Anderson took the idea and Lambert’s book back to the drawing table and came up with a design everyone agreed would represent Bishop Baraga. Anderson said his basic inspiration for the design came from Lambert’s book.
In 1972 after the statue was moved from Anderson’s studio in Lake Linden to the Red Rocks Bluff, a near tragedy was averted. A flash fire swept through the interior of the 35-foot tall monument as it was being erected. A welding torch was used to trim the bottom of the statue when the polyurethane insulation in its interior caught fire. The foam insulation was completely burned, and the heat from the fire scorched the lacquer coating on the statue’s exterior.
"In the annals of American pioneering, few figures played more dramatic roles than Bishop Frederic Baraga. Before being consecrated bishop, he spent 23 years as a missionary to the Indians of the Upper Great Lakes. They were years marked by psychical danger, almost incredible hardship, and supreme dedication that characterized pioneer life throughout history. As a missionary and as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Marquette, Father Baraga was among the prime developers o the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Midwest.
The Bishop Baraga Foundation, established in 1969, is dedicated to fostering a spirit of ecumenism, understanding, and friendship to perpetuate the charitable, benevolent, and historic goals of Bishop Frederic Baraga. A primary means to accomplish these objectives is the establishment and maintenance of this Shrine as a memorial to his memory and development of Baraga's historical heritage in the early years of our country."
The 35-foot brass figure of Bishop Baraga on a Cloud holding a cross and a pair of snowshoes floats on a cloud of stainless steel. Each snowshoe is 26 feet long. A seven-foot cross is held in his right hand. The latter is supported by five massive, laminated parabolic wood beams, which rise from five concrete tepees, representing the five primary Indian missions founded by Bishop Baraga. The tepees are 9 feet high, 50 percent open, and each located at a point of a star that forms an area 64 feet in diameter at the Shrine's base. The Shrine rises six stories, and the figure weighs about four tons.
While the focus of the Bishop Bishop Baraga Shrine Gift Shop is the statue of Bishop Baraga, there are also a variety of other interesting things that people can see. They include a replica of an Indian longhouse built for the burning of Plaque of Lac View Desert Trail Votive candles. In addition, a plaque establishes the trail that used to run from the Native people who lived in Baraga with their family and relatives at Lac View Desert by present-day Watersmeet on the border with Eagle River, Wisconsin. While people may visit the Shrine, the Gift Shop itself is opened Thursday through Monday from 11am to 5pm.