The Great Cross
Continuing eastward one soon comes under the shadow of the Great Cross. This massive structure, made of stainless steel and rising two hundred and eight feet above the marshes of the Matanzas River, stands as a sentinel over the Mission and a “Beacon of Faith” for all who pass this way.
It was erected at the direction of Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, then Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine. Although the Cross would not be completed until September 1966, the top portion was dedicated during an interfaith prayer service on September 8, 1965. His Excellency Casimiro Morcillo, Archbishop of Madrid, dedicated it during the diocesan Eucharistic Congress of October 1966. Like the Prince of Peace Church, the Great Cross was built to celebrate the Four Hundredth anniversary of the beginning of Christianity in this land and the founding of the City of St. Augustine.
Four hundred years earlier, in 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés placed a small wooden cross in Florida’s soil. The beginnings of Christianity in this new land led to numerous missions throughout Florida and, eventually, to the flourishing of the faith that we celebrate throughout this country. The Great Cross is a tribute to that growth. It serves to remind the visitor of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the Cross, as well as the role played by the Catholic religion in the history of both Florida and our Nation.
The Cross weighs approximately 70 tons and consists of 200 stainless steel panels in various sizes. The loftiest sections of the Cross contain 1.6 ft. X 10 ft. panels 3/16 in. thick, while 4 ft. X 10ft. and 5/16 in. thick panels cover the foundational sector. To prevent substantial damage to the Great Cross, the bottom half is filled with concrete. Lights mounted from the ground provide illumination of the Cross at night.
The base of the Cross is covered with granite slabs. Several of the slabs have names inscribed as memorials from family or other loved ones. Information regarding such memorials is available through the Mission office: (904) 824-2809.