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Rising 208 feet above the marshes of the Matanza River, the giant stainless steel cross glinting in the sun stands as a sentinel over Mission Nombre de Dios and serves as a “Beacon of Faith” for all who pass by.
Made of 200 stainless steel panels of various sizes, and weighing approximately 70 tons, the stability of the cross comes from the concrete-filled bottom half. The base is covered with granite slabs, some of which have names inscribed as memorials from loved ones.
The Great Cross was erected at the direction of Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, then Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine. It was built to celebrate the 400th 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 Avilés placed a small wooden cross on Florida’s soil. The beginnings of Christianity in this new land led to numerous missions through Florida and, eventually, to the flourishing of the Catholic fainth throughout the country.
On September 8, 1965, the top portion of the Great Cross was dedicated during an interfaith prayer service. In October 1966, His Excellency Casimiro Morcillo, Archbishop of Madrid, dedicated it during the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress.