Seven sites reveal Kentucky's rich religious history

kward1@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 

Morning aerial views of Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Ky., in Mercer County on Thursday, November 10, 2005. David Stephenson/Staff


As a notch in the nation's Bible Belt, Kentucky offers plenty of sites rich in religious history. Here's a sampling of some of the state's key points of interest for people of faith:

■ The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was founded in 1805 as part of a religious movement that valued equality, simplicity and peace. While the communal society at Pleasant Hill eventually died, today's visitors can step back in time and interact with costumed interpreters, shop the craft store, dine in the restaurant, spend a night in the inn, enjoy 40 miles of trails and more. Visit:

■ The Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown is a Trappist monastery where renowned author Thomas Merton lived for 27 years before his death in 1968. The abbey is a popular site for spiritual retreats, as well as for the cheese, fruitcake and bourbon fudge the monks make. Visit:

Cane Ridge Meeting House in Bourbon County, built by settlers in 1791, is thought to be the largest one-room log building in the country. The revival held there in 1801 is considered the climax of the Great Western Revival and is said to have been attended by more than 20,000 people. Three groups — the Disciples of Christ, Independent Christian churches and the Church of Christ — all trace their roots to Cane Ridge. Visit:

Historic Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church in Lexington was founded in 1790, when a slave named Peter "Brother Captain" Duerett founded African Baptist Church. The church, which claims to be the oldest black church west of the Allegheny Mountains, has occupied the same property on West Maxwell Street since 1822. Its current building dates to the 1930s. Visit:

First African Baptist Church on Price Road also considers itself to have started with the congregation Duerett founded in 1790. Visit:

■ The Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky was generating controversy even before it opened in 2007. Since then, more than 1.2 million people have visited the $27 million facility, which includes a planetarium, petting zoo, dinosaur-related exhibits and dioramas representing various scenes from the Bible. Answers in Genesis, which operates the museum, is planning a Noah's Ark theme park, slated to open in Grant County in 2014. Visit:

■ Louisville's Southeast Christian Church, with attendance of more than 16,000, is the largest church in the state and one of the largest in the nation, according to Outreach Magazine. Southland Christian Church, the second-largest church in Kentucky, sits just outside Lexington in Jessamine County. Both churches are noteworthy for their sheer size. They have multiple campuses and worship times, and a wide range of outreach ministries. Visit: and

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

Contact Karla Ward at (859) 231-3314.

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