Giant Crosses

South of Knoxville, TN

If you’ve never seen a giant cross before, know that you can find many throughout the United States landscape.  The photograph above was sent to me by Libba Roberts, a new friend who has already learned of my odd roadside obsessions.  Its location is just south of Knoxville, TN in Royal Blue, TN. Thanks, Libba!  On my travels, I have also seen a giant cross in Effingham, IL and Edmond, OK.  There is also one in Groom, TX and Huntsville, AL. 
 
The cross in Effingham, IL is the largest in the western hemisphere.  According to the Cross Foundation website: The Cross Foundation has completed a 198 foot Cross at the intersection of Interstates 57 & 70 in Effingham, Illinois. This site is intended to serve as a beacon of hope to the 50,000 travelers estimated to pass the site each day.  See this link for photographs of the cross.  (They are copyrighted.)
 
The reason for the cross in Groom, TX has more of a forceful statement. From the Road Wanderer website. 
 
 
The Groom Cross is located between Interstate 40 and old Route 66 going west out of Groom, Texas. It was built by Steve Thomas of Pampa, Texas in 1995. Mr. Thomas, disgusted with the huge billboards advertising XXX pornography locations along I-40 wanted to make a public profession of faith along the Interstate. Originally he wanted to put up his own billboard with Bible verses but could never find the appropriate verse. Instead, inspired by a cross built by a rancher in Ballinger, Texas, Mr. Thomas knew that he would build a cross. Built on private property donated by Chris Britten to avoid legal issues with the ACLU at a height of 190 feet, the Groom Cross is reported as being the biggest cross in the northern hemisphere. Recent additions to the area around the Groom Cross include a memorial in memory of the victims of abortion and a replica of Calvary, with steps leading to the crosses, and a replica of Christ’s tomb. The Stations of the Cross were just completed and feature life-sized sculptures of the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. The Groom Cross is fast becoming a roadside pilgrimage site with the number of travelers visiting the site increasing exponentially.

  

Groom, TX photograph from Wikipedia Commons.

So, if you happen to pass a giant cross on your roadside adventures, know that it’s not really uncommon.  It’s not historic, but it’s definitely Roadside America.  Generally, no matter how strange something appears from your windshield, there is a reason that it exists.  Half the fun is finding out why and the other half is just taking a photograph to share the wacky site! 

10 thoughts on “Giant Crosses

  1. Andrew says:

    When I read the article, I immediately thought of the groupings of three crosses located across America–you know, the ones made out of telephone poles and painted in pastel colors. You see them on almost every interstate.

    I’d always heard that a gentlemen set forward in the early 1980’s to put these clusters of crosses in every county in America. I couldn’t find anything to back it up–anyone know about this phenom?

    On the religious angle, there’s a great “Noah’s Ark” on interstate 68 in Western Maryland. It’s a massive steel girder structure that vaguely resembles the innards of a boat. A sign next to it (directly against the road) says “Noah’s Ark Being Re-Built Here”! I’ll take a pic next time I’m in the area.

  2. preservationinpink says:

    Andrew, I haven’t heard of the telephone poles painted to crosses. Quite an interesting fact. Next time you see a set, please take a picture! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Elyse says:

    Wow, I love that the one in Effingham is the biggest (beacon of hope…yeah, after driving across the pancake-flat landscape of Western Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, it’s something, all right). A co-worker and I were just talking about the giant crosses, the groups of pastel-painted crosses, and the Noah’s Ark on 68 last week. We have a giant cross on I-81 near Bristol, as well as the groups of three crosses everywhere.

  4. preservationinpink says:

    Linda: thank you for sharing! I apologize that I missed the one in Strasburg and I’m so glad you added it to the list.

  5. dylan says:

    there is giant crosses like this in Louisiana along I-55 and a 3-cross display with spotlights etc along I-10 near Baton Rouge.

    there sure is a lot of these things. i was trying to find a comprehensive U.S. “giant cross” list and stumbled across your site. americans are nuts, eh?

  6. preservationinpink says:

    Thanks for the additions, Dylan! Yes, we Americans sure do love crazy roadside architecture. It’s odd enough to be ridiculously adored.

  7. Billy Sublett says:

    The 3 Crosses we road travellers see in many states began with one WV man’s vision. Bernard Coffindaffer was an orphan at 10, high school graduate at 14,U.S. Marine and businessman in oil & coal ‘washing’.At 42, he became a Christian. His vision of the 3 Crosses resulted in over 2,000 locations in 26 states. After his death, the work is now continued by a lady in Vicksburg MS, Ruth Abraham. See http://www.crossesacrossamerica.com
    The story of the 3 Crosses and how these came to be can be found here:
    http://staugustine.com/stories/041209/news_041209_042.shtml Blessings,Billy

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