Cleveland, Ohio: Come for the Churches, Stay for the Midwestern Charm

Cleveland, located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, is home to a variety of ecclesiastical architecture. Religious travel groups will enjoy visiting Cleveland’s attractions and restaurants as they tour the historic churches in the area.

Tamera Brown, vice president of marketing of the Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Cleveland attracts faith-based travelers by “posting a faith-based suggested itinerary” online and “distributing it to groups that express interest.”

Religious Attractions and Churches in Cleveland

st. johns

St. John the Evangelist

Catholics began arriving in Ohio in the 1830s. In 1847, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland was established. Cleveland’s first bishop, Louis Amadeus Rappe, organized the construction of a Catholic Cathedral under the architect Patrick Charles Keeley. The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, finished in a French Gothic style in 1852, has ever since been the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. The cathedral has seen many additions over the years, including a sandstone trim and spire (1879), stained glass windows (1884), art glass windows from Munich (1902) and cathedral bells (1988). Although St. John’s has frequently been renovated, the cathedral was rebuilt and enlarged between 1946 and 1948 to celebrate the Diocese of Cleveland’s centennial. The Resurrection Chapel houses the tombs of previous bishops and the relics of St. Christine.

The Old Stone Church, a historic Presbyterian church downtown Cleveland, is the oldest building on Public Square. The church, originally named First Presbyterian, was built out of gray sandstone in 1834, hence the nickname “Old Stone Church.” A larger sandstone church, designed by architects Charles Heard and Simeon Porter, was completed on the site in the Romanesque Revival architectural style in 1855. Fire destroyed the church steeple in 1857 and the interior in 1884. Architect Charles Schweinfurth led the church’s reconstruction, which was finished later that same year. The Old Stone Church has four Louis C. Tiffany stained glass windows and a John La Farge triple stained-glass window that were installed between 1885 and 1976.

Old Stone Church

Old Stone Church

Saint Theodosius Cathedral, built in 1911, is an excellent example of the Russian Orthodox architectural style and is Ohio’s oldest Orthodox Christian church. Visitors will marvel at the onion-shaped domes and will not want to miss the beautiful colors and icons inside the cathedral.

St. Theodosius

St. Theodosius Cathedral

Other historic churches include Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (Cleveland’s first Greek Orthodox Church), Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ (built in 1894 with turrets and a 150-foot tower), St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church (former Pilgrim Congregational UCC building with Victorian architectural style), Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Church (original onion dome replaced by a bell tower in 1956) and St. Stanislaus Church (a Gothic church built by Polish Americans in the Slavic Village neighborhood).

Trinity Cathedral

Trinity Cathedral

Cleveland’s faith-based itinerary also mentions Trinity Cathedral, University Circle Methodist Church and Holy Rosary Catholic Church as worthwhile destinations. The itinerary also claims Lake View Cemetery as “Cleveland’s historic, horticultural, architectural, scriptural and geological gem.” Be sure to see the James A. Garfield Monument, Wade Chapel and John D. Rockefeller’s grave here. The Itinerary mentions The Kirtland Temple, a “pilgrimage destination dedicated by Joseph Smith and his Mormon followers in 1836,” as a unique religious site.

Cleveland’s Tourist Attractions

Faith-based travel groups should visit Cleveland’s many cultural attractions. The Cleveland Botanical Garden includes Hershey Children’s Garden and the Japanese Garden among others. The Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse is a must-see; the conservatory features Madagascar desert and Costa Rican cloud forest ecosystems.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is another popular attraction. Exhibits include the African Savanna, Australian Adventure, Seals & Sea Lions and Wolf Wilderness. The most famous exhibit at the zoo is the RainForest, which includes a 25-foot waterfall, simulated tropical rainstorms and over 600 animals from around the world.

Cleveland Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art displays over 45,000 pieces of art. Although currently undergoing an extensive rebuilding project through 2013, the museum opens galleries as they are renovated. The Asian and Egyptian art collections are among the most notable. The nearby Cleveland Museum of Natural History is also worth a visit. A skeletal cast of “Lucy,” a 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor, is among the over five million artifacts displayed here. The Perkins Wildlife Center & Woods Garden and Shafran Planetarium are also part of the museum.

Great Lakes Science Center

Great Lakes Science Center

A great place to explore science and technology is the Great Lakes Science Center. Visitors can experiment with over 400 hands-on exhibits in the fields of light, optics, sound, resonance, motion, mechanics, electricity, magnetism and weather science. The Great Lakes Science Center is also home to an IMAX Theater, a wind turbine, the NASA Glenn Visitor Center and the Willa G. Mather Steamship.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, courtesy of

Music lovers will have to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum features temporary and permanent exhibits that preserve the history of rock and roll artists, music and producers. Two exhibits are One Hit Wonders and 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The Hall of Fame is located on the third of seven floors.

The Western Reserve Historical Society includes the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, History Museum, Library/Archives & Genealogy Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society and Hay-McKinney Mansion. Take time to explore these Italian Renaissance buildings.

Cleveland’s faith-based itinerary also highlights the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage as a place to visit. Here you can examine “the history of Northeast Ohio’s Jewish Community through artifacts, unique exhibits and interactive displays.”

Cleveland also plays hosts to many annual events and festivals including:  the Tri-C JazzFest (April), Cleveland Annual Ohio Irish Jazz Festival (June), Taste of Cleveland (Labor Day Weekend), Geauga Lake Oktoberfest (September) and Taste of Little Italy (September).

Religious groups should definitely visit Cleveland. The religious sites and cultural attractions will make a visit to Cleveland memorable.