In addition to the Thomas Merton sites, Kentucky has other religious landmarks worth visiting.
In Louisville, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption is worth a visit. The neo-Gothic church was completed in 1852 and is one of the oldest buildings in the city (as well as the third-oldest Catholic cathedral in the U.S. in continuous use). During the Civil War it was the scene of funeral services for both Confederate and Union soldiers. Later it served as a refuge center during the great flood of 1937.
Louisville is also home to the Muhammad Ali Center. Ali (originally named Cassius Clay) was born in the city in 1942 and won three world heavy-weight boxing championships. He later became well-known for his humanitarian work. The displays here show how Ali’s religious faith (he became a Muslim in 1964) became the major motivating factor in his life.
In Bardstown, Kentucky (ten miles from the Abbey of Gethsemani), visit the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral at 310 West Stephen Foster Avenue. Its cornerstone was laid in 1816 and it was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.