Detroit, a port city on the Detroit River, is known as the “Motor City” and the birthplace of Motown. Founded by the French in 1701, the city is also home to many religious attractions of interest to faith-based travelers.

Carla Conner-Penzabene, director of sales of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “Detroit has more churches per square mile than any other city in the country…This is a testament to our strong religious community.”

Religious Attractions and Churches in Detroit

Ste. Anne de Detroit

Ste. Anne de Detroit

Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church was the first structure built by French settlers in 1701 and is the second oldest active Roman Catholic parish in America. The current church was constructed in 1887 in the Gothic Revival style with flying buttresses and was designed by architects Leon Conquard and Alert E. French. Ste. Anne’s exhibits Detroit’s oldest stained glass, four gargoyles and relics from the 1818 church, including the bell and a statue of Ste. Anne and daughter Mary. Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Another historic religious attraction is the Mariner’s Church of Detroit. The church was established in 1842 by Julia Anderson, who donated land because she thought that seamen should have spiritual support. The church, built in 1849 in the Gothic Revival style, replaced an earlier wooden church structure. Every March and November, Mariner’s Church holds a Blessing of the Fleet for those departing on a sea voyage and a Great Lakes Memorial Service for those who have died at sea, respectively. The church also served as an Underground Railroad stop prior to the Civil War. When the church structure was moved in 1955 to its present site, workers found a historic underground tunnel. Tours are available.

The First Congregational Church of Detroit was designed by architect John Lyman Faxon and was built in 1891. This beautiful church features Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles and is modeled after churches in Venice and Ravenna. The grounds contain exhibits about the church’s history and architecture as well as the Underground Railroad Living Museum.

First Congregational Church

First Congregational Church

St. John’s Episcopal Church is a Victorian Gothic architectural style church built in 1861. The church has decorative gargoyles and exhibits memorial stained glass windows installed between 1880 and 1954.

Conner-Penzabene also mentioned Second Baptist Church of Detroit and Shrine of the Black Madonna as churches worth touring.

St. Johns Episcopal Church

St. Johns Episcopal Church

Detroit has several historic cemeteries, including Elmwood Historic Cemetery and Woodlawn Cemetery. Elmwood is Detroit’s oldest non-denominational cemetery in continuous operation. The creek in this cemetery is a historical battle site from the French and Indian War. The grounds include Victorian-style tombs, grave markers and mausoleums dating back to the mid-1800s. Woodlawn Cemetery is the burial site of Rosa Parks and Obie Benson, one of the original members of The Four Tops.

Other religious attractions include the Ford Family Cemetery at St. Martha’s Episcopal Church, where Henry and Clara Ford are buried (open daily), Greater Grace Temple (a network of banquet and meeting halls perfect for religious conferences) and Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament (home of the Archdiocese of Detroit).

Detroit’s Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing Tours

Detroit Institute of Arts

Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is an Italian Renaissance-style Beaux-Arts building that houses over 100 galleries. It is rated among the top six art museums in America and contains ethnically diverse art from the prehistoric to modern periods. One highlight is the collection of frescoes portraying life in industrial Detroit by Diego Rivera.

Other museums in downtown Detroit include the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Science Center and Motown Historical Museum.

A unique Detroit attraction is Belle Isle Park, an island park in the Detroit River. This island city park, the largest in America, is the Detroit River’s third largest island. Visitors should explore the marble James Scott Memorial Fountain, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Belle Isle Nature Zoo and Dossin Great Lakes Museum. The conservatory is a greenhouse and botanical garden famous for its large orchid collection. The Dossin Great Lakes Museum focuses on Detroit’s maritime history. One of the world’s largest model ship collections, the S.S. William Clay Ford’s reconstructed pilot house and the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald’s bow anchor are exhibited here. Belle Isle Park is a family-friendly island with beaches and playgrounds.

Belle Isle casino and fountain

Belle Isle casino and James Scott Memorial Fountain in Belle Isle Park

Religious groups traveling to Detroit will definitely want to take advantage of the city’s numerous sightseeing tours. Diamond Jack’s River Tours runs two-hour narrated cruises on a former Mackinac Island ferry. These tours on the Detroit River are offered from early June through early September. One of several companies that provides walking and shuttle tours of Detroit is Feet on the Street Tours and Events. The tours can be themed or general sightseeing tours with an emphasis on a cultural aspect of Detroit (art, architecture, history, music).

Nearby Dearborn, Michigan is home to The Henry Ford, the largest indoor-outdoor museum in the country. It includes the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The Henry Ford Museum displays historical objects Ford collected along with antique vehicles and pop-culture memorabilia. Greenfield Village is the site of about 100 historic buildings that have been placed together. Visitors can observe how early Americans lived and worked through costumed interpreters, craft demonstrations and a historic railway. Tours of Dearborn’s Ford Rouge Factory include films of historic footage and automobile construction and the final assembly of a truck.

Detroit Events and Festivals

One of Detroit’s summer celebrations is Detroit River Days in late June. The festival includes entertainment and activities that commemorate Detroit’s maritime heritage. Other highlights are music performances, the River Days Boat Parade of Lights and the Target Fireworks over the river.

More annual events in Detroit include the North American International Auto Show (January), Detroit International Jazz Festival (Labor Day Weekend), Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix (Labor Day Weekend) and Noel Night (December), where over 60 museums and other attractions open free of charge to the public.

Detroit is a great destination for faith-based travelers. The diverse historic and cultural attractions, accommodations and dining certainly enhance a trip to Detroit.