Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Temperature 73 Degrees, Sunshine with periods of Rain

Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center

It’s sort of amusing to think that we really came here for just one attraction and we haven’t even been to it yet. Point of fact, we are due to visit it on Thursday morning the very day we are due to leave here. Now how did I mess that up? Ah well, I guess we’re going to get a late start on Thursday.

In the meantime we’ve found a lot of different attractions and museums to visit. This being one of them.

Once again we discovered this attraction almost by accident. We happened to go by it the other day coming back from somewhere and we both said Hey that looks interesting. Well, today we paid it a visit and what we discovered there was unquestionably amazing.

As you enter the parking lot your eye is naturally drawn to this mural on the face of the main building. The scene depicts 18th century immigrants arriving in the New World. It shows them arriving with all their worldly goods ready to start life anew in a new world.

This is the center piece of this museum. Housed in Mural Hall it is called the Behalt Cyclorama. Behalt means to keep or remember. It is a 265 ft long and 10 ft high mural in the round. It illustrates and helps all who view it to remember the heritage of the Amish and Mennonite people from their Anabaptist beginnings in Zurich, Switzerland in 1525 to the present day. It’s vivid colors and sweeping lines are breathtaking and staggering. Certain colors dominate certain historical periods: reds for times of persecution, blues and greens for times of greater peace and prosperity. Among many it has earned the nickname of The Sistine Chapel of the Amish and Mennonites.

About that word Anabaptist. It doesn’t mean against baptism but rather means to be baptized again. Those who belonged to this movement believed that their infant baptism was meaningless. They believed in adult baptism or literally a second baptism. For them the church was a community of Christians voluntarily committed to imitating Christ and to supporting one another. Baptism – the sign of church membership and commitment – was only for those old enough to choose the path of discipleship. Moreover, they believed that the state should have no part in directing the life and activities of the church. From the Anabaptist movement would come those we know today as Amish and Mennonite.

However, church and state leaders at the time believed that such thinking was too radical and if allowed to continue would challenge the unity of the church and state. Hence, the movement could not be allowed to grow and thrive. Thus, members of the new movement faced fierce opposition from both state, and Catholic and Protestant authorities. Many were imprisoned and tortured, others were beheaded or burned at the stake. But the movement as we know survived, not only survived but thrived and continued to grow. Even as it does today.

Let’s take a look at some highlights of the Behalt Cyclorama.

It begins and ends with the figure of the risen Christ. Christ alone is the foundation of the Amish and Mennonite faith. He is the one that they faithfully serve in this life as his disciples.

Martin Luther was a German monk and professor of theology. He sparked the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

The first recorded Anabaptist adult baptism. George Blaurock asked to be baptized on his confession of faith. He in turn baptized others who were present.

Thousands of followers of the Anabaptist faith were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and burnt at the stake for their faith. Many of them at the time of their death would testify to their faith. This is a portrait of the death of Michael Sattler dying for his faith. To prevent him from testifying when he was burnt at the stake, they first cut his tongue out. Eight days after his death his wife was put to death by drowning.

As I viewed this and other such like paintings I was forced to ask myself Would I be willing to die for my faith? I would like to think that the answer is yes but I hope that I never have to make that decision.

Leaning on the staff is a portrait of Jacob Amman. He is the recognized founding father of the Amish movement.

The gentleman pictured above leaning on the staff with the paint brushes in his pocket is a self portrait of Heinz Gaugel. He is the artist who painted the Behalt Cyclorama. He made a commitment to painting it after a friend said to him one day I wish there was some place all the tourists in this area could go to learn of our heritage and faith. He in turn replied Tomorrow I will begin working toward that goal.

OK. The above is just a brief snapshot of the Behalt Cyclorama. The guided tour lasts a full 30 minutes and our guide was excellent. If you are ever in this area let me encourage you to take the time to take the tour. It’s a wonderful way to learn about the people in whose midst you find yourself when in this region.

After our time in Mural Hall we moved into the small museum that is also a part of the Center.

There was a display showing the various forms of head coverings that the men and women wear. I was surprised by the variety on display. I wish I could tell you when and why each is worn but I forget to take a picture of the small plaque in the middle that listed each.

A painted blanket chest done in the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Folk art style.

In terms of communication among the Amish.

Our guide called The Budget the Facebook of the Amish.

Less they forget their past.

In the late sixteenth century the Amish and Mennonite’s were becoming more socially secure and accepted among those around them. Fearful that they would forget Jesus’ teaching of simplicity and humility, and the need to sacrifice if necessary for their faith, a Dutch Mennonite minister believed that they needed to be reminded of their martyr pass.

He began collecting stories of Anabaptist martyrs and in 1660, he published these stories in a 1,478 page book entitled the Martyrs Mirror. It included an explanation of Anabaptist beliefs as well as numerous graphic stores of martyr tales. The second edition published in 1685 included some 104 graphic illustrations. Today this book is found in most Amish homes and reference to it is common in Amish circles.

Turning to worship on Sunday.

Did you catch that? 14 to 30 minutes to sing the four stanzas of Loblied, hymn number 131!

That concludes our time at the Heritage Center. It was well worth the visit and I would recommend a visit to anyone who happens to be in this region.

Well, our time here is quickly coming to an end. We have one more museum to visit and we’ll do that Thursday morning prior to our departure. We could leave on Friday but we both much prefer moving out on our scheduled day. Our visit to this region has been enlightening and informative. Not to mention relaxing and peaceful. The perfect blend.

Thanks again for spending some time with us.  It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest. 

Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before.


  1. It does sound like a very interesting museum. I always like guided tours. I enjoy reading, but having a guide, for me, does make it easier to absorb more information. I would also have to refresh myself on the differences between Amish and Mennonite. I look forward to your next post to see what drew you to the area. Safe travels, and have a good day!


    1. Amish and Mennonite are similar in beliefs and faith. They both came from the same Christian movement during the Reformation. Big differences: Amish shy away from technology, for instance no automobiles and no connection to the electric grid. Mennonites are more progressive and allow both. Of course there are a lot more differences but that is the main difference. Safe travels.

      Liked by 1 person

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