Bald Knob Cross Restored – By Rose Hammitt


I have been here before, but I wanted to return to see the Bald Knob Cross since its restoration. Located on Bald Knob outside of Alto Pass, to get there my friend Rose and I traversed the winding road to the peak where the cross rises above the horizon.

We were not disappointed in the beauty of the cross.  My only downside was that the building that appears to be a visitor’s center said open, and was not.  The cross itself though is a magnificent tribute to the Christian faith and a true accomplishment for those in Southern Illinois that took this effort to task.  Over the years the site has had its ups and downs, but the cross that stands111 feet tall and when illuminated at night with 40,000 watts, can be seen for 7,500 square miles.

The cross is a symbol of standing strong even in turbulent times and the cross reminds me of the beautiful Lutheran hymnal “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” and the words “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

No matter what faith you follow, this symbol is an inspiring story of perseverance and love of the Lord they set their faith in.   On the Bald Knob cross website at the top of each selection is the phrase, “Standing as a testimony to God’s love.”

The story of the cross begins in the spring of 1937 with Wayman Presley, a native of Jackson County.  Presley and Reverend W. H. Lirely were walking and speaking about the need for a place where people of all denominations could gather for worship and during their walk.  They noticed the Bald Knob which rises 1,000 feet above sea level.  The Knob is part of the Illinois Ozark Mountains of Southern Illinois.

The conversation led to an Easter Sunrise service in 1937 where there was a crowd of around 250.  Over the years, the attendance grew and a plan to build the Bald Knob Cross was put into action. 

The Bald Knob Cross was completed in 1963 and the cross is comprised of exterior white panels covering the cross. There are 4-inch architectural flat insulated metal panels and the base portion is covered in granite approximately 4-inches thick. The huge cross with a steel framework that weighs 170 tons, sits on a foundation of 730 tons of reinforced concrete that goes down 20 feet to bedrock.

Each of the four sides of the cross has a word inscribed into the granite: Peace, Hope, Faith, Charity. The cross was completed through donations from thousands of people from the United States and other countries.  One of the most successful fundraisers was through an effort of raising pigs then selling them and donating the proceeds.

Because of a legal dispute among the Board Members of the Cross that went into a two-year court battle the cross fell into disrepair.  During this time Friends of the Cross raised funds for the eventual restoration of the Cross. Once the legal suit was settled in 2008 around $150,000 was spent in demolition of the original panels and the repair of the superstructure itself which was completed in the fall.  Fund raising and plans for improvements continue. 

If ever in the Alto Pass area, it is worth taking the winding road to see the cross that inspires so many.

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