Image from the Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood, Ohio, courtesy of The Plain Dealer

If the Rust Belt is a bastion of anything, that thing might be Catholicism. Or, maybe not–given that about 40 Catholic churches were shuttered in Cleveland, Ohio, alone over the last few decades.

As the city’s population waned and its churches closed, some of the sacred art was shipped out to existing and new churches; some wasn’t.

Thanks to a good friend and follower of Rust Belt Girl for putting me onto the story of Lou McClung. A makeup artist with his own cosmetics line housed in a former Catholic school, McClung bought the closed St. Hedwig Church (named for a beloved Polish queen) in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, Ohio, in 2011, and began restoring its statues. In an article in a 2017 issue of Catholic Digest, McClung said:

I do restoration artwork across the country and I thought it was important to remember where all of these statues came up. The art represents the immigrants and all their hard work and sacrifices that made these [now closed] parishes possible.

The artist lovingly restores the statues and researches and shares the provenance of each piece in the Museum of Divine Statues he founded. Lately, McClung’s museum has been receiving religious artwork not only from the Cleveland area but from all over the country.

Other Rust Belt locales preserving shuttered churches and their art include the Buffalo [New York] Religious Arts Center and the Jubilee Museum in Columbus, Ohio.

McClung’s restoration work for his Museum of Divine Statues is beautiful. Great pics can be found at these sites:






7 thoughts on “What to do with sacred art when churches close?

    1. Thanks for checking in! I loved your latest post with the Little Free Library. A neighbor of mine (a retired librarian) has one in front of her house–and you’re right, it’s always so interesting to see what’s in there. Such a nice community builder!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I totally hear you. Great how you bring to life the things that seem to be slipping away.
    Similar issues come up when a synagog closes its doors. There used to be a huge Jewish community in the Bronx, NY.

    Here’s an article about one example

    Many Synagogs will take the Torah scrolls and memorial plaques from the ones that close down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that very interesting article. I know I’ve walked past churches and synagogues for sale–always sad. But I hadn’t really thought about the legalities involved with what becomes of them and of all the sacred–and also everyday–objects inside. That some of the holy books in poor condition must be buried–I didn’t know that. Truly like a funeral of a place of worship but also of the congregation that is no longer.


  2. Really interesting concept! I always think it’s funny that after we deem stuff “important” there’s that problem of oh shit, now I have to look after it forever…

    Liked by 1 person

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