50-Year-Old Cross On Top Of Monte Sano Shines Over Huntsville Once More

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- You may not have noticed, but among the trees on Monte Sano, a cross towers over the Rocket City.

From its perch, it dwarfs even the rockets themselves.

For years, the lit cross could be spotted for miles around, until it fell into disrepair and went dark.

Last fall, a group of church goers went to work on the area, cleared the ground, and re-lit the cross.

Because sometimes, you have to make your own way forward. You have to leave the road everyone travels.

Brave the wild, beat a path, and maybe, light the way for others.

The 75-foot cross now towers over a clearing. Church volunteers cleaned brush; they stacked stones for those who might sit and reflect.

They made the foot of the cross a destination.

These 38-tons of heft reign over the mountain, as they have since 1963.

Mayfair Church of Christ minister Joe Essner confides, "When I returned to Huntsville about eleven years ago, I hiked in here to the cross and expected to see it as it was back in the late sixties. It was overgrown. You couldn't really get around the base of it anymore. The lighting was out."

That led to a musing, that would echo all the way down the mountain.

Wouldn't it be nice if it were lit?

So the mission began. Volunteers laid new power lines. They turned the lights back on.

"We've since heard several stories of people at Huntsville Hospital having to face critical decisions in their life, critical times in their life that looked out of the windows of Huntsville Hospital and said that their faith was renewed by seeing this cross lit," Essner said. "Just reminding them that it's truly God that's in control, and some things are bigger than us."

Right now, Mayfair Church of Christ spearheads the efforts to spruce up the area and keep it lit.

They pay a power bill of about $50 a month from a special fund.

They hope donors will step up to help keep the cross shining over Huntsville.

If you want to help, you can contribute to the W.R. Dickson Fund at any Rocket City Credit Union Branch.

Also, we want to share your view of the cross all lit up.

If you feel so moved, go out at night and snap a picture. Help us build a web gallery of the icon that has brought so much comfort and peace. You can submit your photos below - just click the button underneath the gallery to add them. We will check for new photos and approve them.  Or, you can email pictures to photo@whnt.com.


    • Claire Aiello

      You can actually reach it from the grounds of Burritt Museum (admission required, but that’s a fun place to visit while you’re there.) If anyone else knows another way, please add the information.

    • Frances Potter

      There is a trail that crosses the driveway up to Burrit. There are a couple of parking places, but they may be handicapped. If they are, you can park at the hikers lot across Monte Sano Blvd, walk up the driveway, and turn left on the trail. You can follow it around to the cross without going to the top and paying.

  • John Long

    I remember as a teenager, you could see it from miles away. We used to sit out in the back yard and could see it at night from Redstone Arsenal. Back then (mid 60’s) there was no development on Monte Sano, so it really stood out. I am glad to hear its back up.

  • Mike Jackson

    A welcome reintroduction of light & hope back into the Huntsville area!!! Thanks to all the volunteers that made this happen !!!

  • Rebecca Dickson Harris

    My Dad William R Dickson donated the architectural services in 1963 for design of the cross. Saw in your article reference to WR Dixon fund. Last name spelled wrong but am guessing meant for his memory. Is that the correct spelling? And they really set up an account? How wonderful.

  • Mark Godsey

    My father set the cross in 1963.he drove the Crain where there was no road to the spot where the cross is at. It would be nice if there was a way to leave a plaque for all those involved with the work.
    And I want to thank mr. Easier and all the volunteers for the work that they have done. Let’s keep the cross shining for all to see.

  • Virginia Roberts

    I moved back to Huntsville last year and have been looking for the cross since then. So glad to see it lit again, brings back memories!

  • Alicia Smith

    I had brain surgery to remove a tumor in Jan right after the cross was lit. From my hallway on the 8th floor at the hospital it gave me hope of Gods healing hand on my body and soul. Ivr posted my story so you can see what a blessing it is to me. I’m thankful for the reminder every day as I drive through town and see the sun catch it. I can’t wait to hike up there now that I’m recovering and see it in person. Thank you to everyone worked so hard to get it lit and those who keep it up by paying the electric and keeping the trail accessible.

  • Melisa Gingrich

    I have a picture of that Cross from January 1980 when I, as a 17 year old kid hiked to the cross and sat at the foot of it to get high. I was under so much conviction just looking up at that cross that I felt sick to my stomach and refused to smoke with my friends. I accepted Christ as my Savior 6 days later. I attribute much of my salvation to the conviction of that cross. I will forever keep that picture and remember that day!,

  • Jennifer

    In 1973 I became diabetic & in coma after coming out of coma I could see gold praying hands of God come across my face & opened eyes that cross was the next thing I seen… 🙏

  • CB

    This report needs to read “Mayfair Church of Christ” not “Mayfield.” Mayfair has sponsored a TV show “Abundant Living” on WHNT for 34 years. They should be familar with MAYFAIR by now.

  • Camping Nana

    I remember as a child going to Huntsville (I live on Sand Mountain) usually at night visiting a relative in the hospital, and seeing the cross. I used to think how did they get it up there? But I didn’t know what happened to it as I got older and starting looking for it. Now I know. Please put up some signs from 431 on how to get to the cross. I would love to hike up and sit at the foot of the cross.

  • Kim

    Typo – In your first reference to Joe Essner, you say he’s with MAYFIELD Church of Christ. It should say MAYFAIR as you correctly note later in the article. Thanks!!

  • Saved

    Now that the cross is back in view, the shootings and killings in Huntsville will be less. We do not need more gun control and Obamaism to stop the violence as long as we turn our faces towards God. All the violence is only because Huntsville turned away from God by hiding the cross. All will be well now!

  • Nancy Lee

    Many gracious thanks to all of the volunteers who have revived this lovely Cross to bless others in countless ways!…and for my Savior who bled and died on that Cross to save my soul! I am blessed just reading about it! I plan to make my way up there as well! Have a blessed Easter everyone!!

  • michelle jessick

    I would like to thank the church,the volunteers,and anyone else who helped and are helping with cross. I remember growing up watching for the cross at night,and wen my mother was in the hospital could see the cross,and to me it always seems extremely special to see the cross at christmas. So my final words are thank you for all you have done&are doing to keep that cross special. AND GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

  • Shelia

    I hiked with my daughters 2nd grade class from Lincoln Elem in 2002
    to the cross and back up Monte Sano. The going down to the cross was nice the hiking back up Monte Sano not so nice. But it was well
    worth the trip!! Anyone who has not been needs to go.

    • jesusdidntgiveuponme

      Shhh! Bob. Don’t give them any ideas.
      This cross is my main memory of Huntsville. Even when I wasn’t a Christian it has ALWAYS given me comfort. Whenever I would leave Huntsville and return it was always the first thing I would see driving into town. I got upset when I thought it had been removed.

    • Saved

      Why would the ACLU get involved? The funds to restore and maintain the cross are provided by a local church. The ACLU recently support a high school student’s right to read their bible in school at lunch and during breaks. The ACLU only gets involved when religion is being supported by public funds. That is the way it should be.

      • bbs2014

        He really means the FFRF, freedom from Religion, if it is on public grounds they would say something even if it is paid for by private church funds. Public and church do not mix in their view and they do everything they can to “fix” that…

  • Camping Nana

    What does “Facts You Should Know” say in the picture? I can’t see the small print. I would love to see what it say.

  • David Willis

    Wow! So much self promotion at the expense of a symbol of God. You should be ashamed. The cross is here because Jesus died for our sins and rose again! Find a billboard your daddy’s worked on and memorialize it.

  • Tom

    It’s sad that some continue to cling to a representation of an ancient torture device, reportedly, used during the time of the mythical Jesus. Based on a complete lack of evidence, Jesus and events in the bible never happened. Similar can be said of all religions. How can anyone find “hope” in a cross that represents a murderous belief system responsible for centuries of untold misery and death? Those in hospitals should thank their doctors and medical science: not imaginary deities written about in fictional holy books.

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