The extraordinary collection of relics housed here in agricultural western Ohio is the legacy of Father J.M. Gartner. The vicar general of the Diocese of Milwaukee, Gartner was visiting Rome in 1872, a time of flagrant anti-papal sentiment and chaotic politics. Horrified by the treatment given to the relics plundered from the churches of the Eternal City, Gartner began a crusade of redeeming the sacred articles from the city's pawn shops. With assistance from Vatican officials and other Italian prelates, Gartner eventually obtained a vast collection.
The relics were first put on display in New York City, where Cardinal McClosky urged Gartner to keep the collection together. Gartner selected the Precious Blood Sisters in the farm town of Maria Stein, Ohio, as custodians of the relics. There was already a substantial number of relics there, the personal collection of Father Francis de Sales Brunner. As the site became known and pilgrimages increased, new and larger chapels were built, culminating in the present structure, which was finished in 1892. The chapel is in the heart of the "Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches."