HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - If you've driven down Governors Drive in the last, oh let's say, four decades, you've seen it. It's called, the "Cosmic Christ," but most Huntsville natives know it as "Eggbeater Jesus."
For the last week, the iconic mosaic has gone under the knife in a renovation project that will last several years.
Church leaders say, almost as soon as the "Eggbeater Jesus" mosaic started dominating the Huntsville skyline in the 1970s, small tiles began falling off.
Several years ago, the congregation decided their "Cosmic Christ" needed some first aid. So, this month begins a lengthy process to introduce the Huntsville landmark to the 21st century.
“It’s history. It’s an icon," says Jim Piercey, a contractor on the project.
"Eggbeater Jesus" has stolen looks from driving cars for nearly four decades.
"It was beyond the point of salvage. There was so much restoration that had to be done to it," says Piercey.
Lately, it's started to really show.
"Not just restore it but exceed its original beauty," says First Baptist Senior Pastor Travis Collins.
So, gradually, this massive mosaic will start to come down.
“It made a lot more sense economically and artistically to replace the mosaic with the proper materials," says Piercey.
But have faith. It's coming back with the same design, a new more durable style of tile called smalty and a range of colors that would put Crayola to shame.
“Candidly we want to be a bright spot not a sore spot for Huntsville,” says Pastor Collins.
The Michelangelo of this Sistine Chapel is Emanuele Barsanti.
“It’s a very, very large project," he says.
The fourth generation Italian mosaic expert teamed up with Piercy of Orlando to begin ripping off the old and give life to the new.
Each panel is divided up into about 600 pieces. Each part will then be arranged, like a divine jigsaw puzzle.
“Very tedious, very painstaking," says Piercey.
The panel takes one week to remove, three to four weeks to replace and there are seven panels in all meaning the whole process will take about five years.
“There’s part of me that wishes we could fast forward the clock," says Collins.
When it's finished, Pastor Collins hopes it not only catches passing glances, but serves a higher calling.
It’s important to us to put our best, well, not our best face forward but the best face of Jesus forward that we can," he says.
Tuesday night, members of the community will have the chance to take home a piece of tile, from the original mosaic. The event is from 6-8 p.m. at the downtown campus.