What Are Some Facts About Holy Hill in Wisconsin?


Quick Answer

The National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians, sits on Holy Hill, which is located 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and occupies 435 acres. Each year, over 500,000 visit the shrine, operated by Discalced (barefoot) Carmelite friars since 1906. First dedicated as a shrine in 1863, Pope Leo XIII declared it a shrine with Portiuncula privilege in 1903. At 1,300 feet above sea level, Holy Hill is the highest peak in Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine chain.

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Full Answer

Two 8-foot marble statues, St. Mary Help of Christians and St. Joseph, protector of the order, have graced the entrance to the shrine's 1926 Neo-Romanesque chapel since 1956. Ceiling lamps in the upper chapel include Greek wrought-iron letters that spell out "hodegetria;" hod meaning way and egetria, referring to Mary, a feminine leader or guide, in this case, to Christ.

Early Jesuits and Indian folklore of the 1670s speak of a person on Holy Hill, dressed in black robes and wearing a crucifix. These stories are consistent with the arrival in the mid-1800s of a Frenchman, Francois Soubrio. Following information from a diary and map found in Quebec and dated 1676, he ventured to Wisconsin to find the cone-shaped mountain and stone altar that the diary's author described, and he dedicated it to Mary. The Irish settled the area in 1842, and the Germans resettled it in 1854. A 15-foot oak cross with German engraving, made from a tree on the hill in 1858, is located in the shrine's Marian Hallway.

Mass and confession take place daily at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill.

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