The museum of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend now shares history from its most visible and accessible location yet.
The new location of Diocesan Museum, the ground floor of the former chancery located at 1103 S. Calhoun St. on Cathedral Square in downtown Fort Wayne is now open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and by appointment. Admission is free.
The new location has a large outdoor sign and stands less than a block from visitor destinations such as the Grand Wayne Convention Center, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and Embassy Theatre.
For many years, the museum — formerly known as Cathedral Museum — has operated in a basement location, at St. Mother Theodore Guérin Chapel next to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and, most recently, in the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center.
The move to the new building revives use of the former chancery, which had been mostly vacant for several years. The larger space allows the museum to display more items from its collection, said Father Phillip Widmann, who founded the museum in 1980 and still serves as its director as well as pastor of nearby St. Mary, Mother of God Church.
“I counted, and I have 40 things out that I’ve never had out before,” said Father Widmann.
Items on display also are less crowded than in the past, he said. Natural light pours through the museum’s windows to brighten the space.
The museum’s four exhibit rooms focus on separate topics: the Eucharist, relics, bishops and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and other items. Information cards provide details about items so people can explore the museum on their own.
Exhibit highlights include:
A few oil paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries and other artifacts Father Widmann believes the diocese’s second bishop, Bishop Joseph Dwenger, brought back after leading a pilgrimage in 1874 to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. The paintings and items reportedly had been among those stolen by the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte earlier that century.The museum never had room to display all of the paintings simultaneously until now, Father Widmann said.
A small, elegantly handwritten scholar’s Bible dating to about the year 1250.
A plain, wooden, parlor desk made about 1840 and used by Msgr. Julian Benoit, the architect of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and its first rector.
The prayer kneeler used by Bishop John Henry Luers, who became the diocese’s first bishop in January 1858.
An extensive collection of anti-Catholic books, publications and cartoons assembled by Archbishop John Francis Noll, who led the diocese from 1925 until his death in 1957. In response to anti-Catholic sentiment in the early 1900s, then-Father Noll launched Our Sunday Visitor in Huntington, a national Catholic newspaper that opposed attacks on Catholicism and informed people about anti-Catholic activities.
Several statues, including one of the Scourged Christ made in 1932 by the John P. Daleiden Co. of Chicago.
A large display of chalices, monstrances and other items associated with the Eucharist, some of which date from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.
Father Widmann believes both Catholics and non-Catholics will enjoy the museum’s exhibits. He hopes visitors leave with a better understanding of the Catholic faith and clarification of any misperceptions they may have had about it.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free Parking – Free Admission
This museum is free and operates primarily on your generosity. Your donation in the MUSEUM OFFERING BOX will go far to insure the viewing of these treasures by future generations.
Questions and comments are welcome.
Diocesan Museum 1103 S. Calhoun Street
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
Email Father Phil Widmann or call 260-424-1485 ext. 401
If time permits, there are two historic and beautiful church’s in the immediate area which you should take the time to see. The first is our CATHEDRAL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, which is located one block south of the Noll Center, on Cathedral Square, in the 1100 block of South Calhoun Street right next to the Diocesan Museum. The Cathedral was built in 1859 and is especially noted for its Gothic-style architecture, its Bavarian stained-glass windows (are said to be the best of their kind in the entire Western Hemisphere) and its wood carvings (are said to be the best of their kind in the entire United States.) The Cathedral is open daily for you to visit. If you desire a “guided tour” you must pre-arrange (prior to the day of your visit) by calling the cathedral office at 260-424-1485 ext. 302.
The second Church worth your time is St. Peter’s, located approximately one mile south and three blocks east of the Cathedral location at 2100 Warsaw Street on St. Peter’s Square. Like the Cathedral, St. Peter’s (built in 1893) is Gothic in design and is especially noted for its “electric altars” – which are truly a sight to behold! As one visitor remarked: “St. Peter’s is perhaps the most beautiful church in the diocese, if not in the entire Mid-West.” For entrance into St. Peter’s and a “guided tour” call the St. Peter’s Rectory at 260-744-2765.
After visiting the DIOCESAN MUSEUM be sure and stop by GOOD SHEPHERD BOOKS AND GIFTS which is located on the First Floor of the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center. This store includes an outstanding array of religious books, cards, statuary, crucifixes, medals, rosaries – just about anything in the religious line that you are looking for.