With Lent underway, it’s appropriate the focus of this week’s blog is on St. Michael’s church in Ft. Loramie, the site of so many childhood memories. Many times while attending church as a youngster, I had wondered about the statue of St. Ursula under the Blessed Virgin Mary alter in the church. After doing some research on-line, I discovered the statue also includes an imbedded relic, but I could not find what the O.P.N. abbreviation means; likely something in German since it was the predominant language in Ft. Loramie at the time the Church was built.
St. Michael’s is the sixth oldest parish in the archdiocese of Cincinnati and the huge edifice built in 1881 is designated as one of the Land of the Cross Tipped Churches prevalent in western Ohio. In fact, over 30 area churches as a group are designated as an Ohio Scenic Byway. The architect of many of these churches was my late aunt’s great grandfather as documented in this previous blogpost. Speaking of blogs, there is a blogpost published by Russ Martin, the so called "Steeple Chaser" at this link highlighting each of the churches included in the "crossed tipped" designation. Click the St. Michael’s link on the right and you’ll see photos of the stations of the cross statues mounted on the church walls. Those statues bring back special memories as an altar boy during Way of the Cross services each Lent.
Photos of the stained glass windows are also included, along with an explanation of each, which I found interesting.
Back to St. Ursula, apparently Fr. Bigot, the parish priest when the church was being build, had connections with St. Ursula Basilica in Cologne, Germany, the site where the saint's body was buried. He arranged to have the statue with the embedded relic made in Germany and shipped via canal boat to Ft. Loramie and had it built into the side alter of the new church.
Now for the interesting aspect of St. Ursula; according to legend, she was the daughter of a Christian British king and was sent to pagan Europe along with thousands of maidens so they may be wed to the locals as a way of spreading the Catholic faith on the mainland. Their first stop was Rome for a visit with Pope Leo the Great to get his blessing for their mission. The entourage then traveled to Cologne where they were all martyred in 383 AD by the invading pagan Huns. In the 12th century, the Basilica of St. Ursula was built on the site of a mass grave believed to be the ancient cemetery where St. Ursula and her companions were laid to rest.
The bones from the mass grave are stored in the so-called Golden Chamber within the Basilica. Click here for a video of the inside of the chamber: Since it’s impossible to know which of the bones belonged to St. Ursula herself, the entire collection is considered a relic of the group as a whole. In fact the October 21st feast day for St. Ursula is designated in honor of all the martyred maidens not just the saint.
The Order of Ursulines, founded in 1535, are devoted to the education of young girls, which has also helped to spread St. Ursula’s name throughout the world. As a result, she is the patron saint of school girls. And in honor of St. Ursula and the maidens, the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean were named by Christopher Columbus in 1493.
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