Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians

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Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians
Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians is a Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The centerpiece of the shrine is a minor basilica. It is located in the town of Erin, near Hubertus, Wisconsin, in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The shrine has approximately 300,000 visitors per year.

The shrine is located atop a high kame in 400 acres (1.6 km 2) of woods. Visitors can climb a 178-step observation tower to view the Milwaukee skyline 30 miles (48 km) away. At approximately 1,350 feet (410 m) above sea level, it is one of the highest points in southeastern Wisconsin. It is located near Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail.

Tradition says that the hill was first discovered in 1673 by Father Marquette on his return from the discovery of the upper Mississippi River with Joliet. It is now known that Fr. Marquette did not travel to this area. The United States government owned the land until 1855, and the hill was known as "Government Hill" for surveying work was done there. Forty acres were purchased by Fr. Paulhuber, from Salzburg, Austria. The first resident on the hill was a hermit named Francois Soubrio. Around 1862, an area farmer found him living on the hill. Soubrio had heard about the hill when he was working as an assistant to a retired professor in Quebec, Canada. He had found an old French diary and map dated 1676 showing a cone-shaped mountain in Wisconsin. The diary described how the author placed a stone altar, raised a cross, and dedicated the hill to Jesus's mother Mary. The diary account corresponds with Jesuit missionary work in the area between 1673 and 1679. The name "Holy Hill" was first used by Father George Strickner when he dedicated a log chapel as the first Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians on May 24, 1863. A set of wooden crosses were placed for the Stations of the Cross in 1875. In the winter of 1879, Fr. Raess sent a proposal to Archbishop John Henni to construct a new shrine to Mary. Construction began that spring. Pilgrims began flocking to the shrine, and it was decided that a religious order should administer the shrine. A group of Discalced Carmelites came from Bavaria at the invitation of Archbishop Sebastian Messmer, and the Shrine of Mary was put under their care on June 26, 1906. The building now known as the Old Monastery Inn and Retreat Center was completed in 1920. The second shrine was removed in 1925 so that a third shrine could be built. The cornerstone of the third and present shrine was placed by Archbishop Messmer on August 22, 1926. The present church was completed and consecrated in 1931. Another tradition describes a German priest who was recreant to his vows who came to America for penance. He found a reference to the hill in Marquette's diary and decided to take a pilgrimage. He became ill in Chicago, and was paralyzed. He reportedly found the hill, crawled to the summit on his hands, and was cured of his paralysis.

Worship site
The basilica hosts weekend Masses. There are also daily religious services and Marian devotions. The main church was built in 1930. It has two eight-foot-tall statues at its entrance, which were placed there in 1958. The left statue depicts St. Mary, Help of Christians, and the right depicts Saint Joseph, protector of the Carmelites. The inside of the church features mosaics of Discalced Carmelite founders St. Theresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross.

The church underwent a $6.1 million renovation between 2002 and 2006. The renovations included extensive interior decorative painting, faux stone & mosaic by Conrad Schmitt Studios and exterior repairs, including a new slate roof for the monastery, main church and bell tower. On June 6, 2006 (06/06/06) vandals spray painted the church and several shrines with expletives and references to Satan and the Number of the Beast. It was later discovered the vandals were two teenage boys. The cost of removing the graffiti was in excess of $33,000.00.

The shrine was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On July 16, 2006, a Mass was held celebrating 100 years of Carmelite stewardship at the site. During that Mass it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had named Holy Hill a minor basilica. Holy Hill was dedicated as a minor basilica by Archbishop Timothy Dolan dedicated on November 19, 2006. There are fewer than 60 minor basilicas in the United States.

Building Activity

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