From the ceiling halfway to the floor, a stunning colorful display erupts around you. The cyclorama begins and ends with a prominent illustration of Jesus Christ, displayed in dazzling warmth. A local Amish guide begins the tour by describing “Behalt,” the remarkable 10 foot high by 265 foot-long mural that illustrates the history of the Anabaptist religion.
The painting was created by artist Heinz Gaugel and took 14 years for him to complete. Gaugel used color to convey the mood of the historic events depicted. Red and orange hues enflame times of persecution, while purples and blues highlight times of peace. The mural moves through time and space, through Luther’s period to the Baptist movement and then the eventual separation of Mennonite and Amish churches. More than 1200 historic figures are depicted in the mural.
Visitors from across the globe visit the Center annually, with more than 18,000 guests arriving each year. Visitors from more than 120 nations have visited the center, making it a true destination in Ohio’s Amish country. Many guests have little to no knowledge of the Anabaptist people, and come with a lot of familiar questions, such as: “What’s the difference between Amish and Mennonite?” And “Is rumspringa real?” All of these questions, and more, are answered in a visit to the center.
Behalt isn’t the only remarkable feature of the center. Outside, an historic one-room schoolhouse and a pioneer barn are open to visitors. The schoolhouse was operational from 1857 and 1951 and is arranged as it would have been when it was in service. The barn describes how a traditional Amish barn-raising event would be organized and it also houses an authentic Conestoga wagon that transported Amish from Pennsylvania to Holmes County.
There’s more history to experience back inside the center, as a small museum showcases Amish apparel and local artifacts. The newest addition to the center is the library, which houses hundreds of Amish and Mennonite documents and books. The library is dedicated to preserving these documents and the history of the Anabaptist religion. Housed among the books and hymnals are several historic bibles, including a 1531 Froschauer Bible, based on Luther’s translation. The bible is in remarkable condition and sits within a glass case to keep it preserved.
Today, more than 1.6 million Anabaptist people live in 80 countries across the globe. The highest concentration live in Holmes County, Ohio, making it one of the top destinations for those looking to learn about the culture. Come see, experience, and learn about the Anabaptist people. Make the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center the first stop on your journey through Amish country.