77-plus foot Kerrville cross is raised in nation's mid-section

KERRVILLE, Texas — A mammoth 70-ton cross, measuring 77 feet and 7 inches, was installed along Interstate 10 on July 27, ending a nine-year battle to complete the project.

"The Empty Cross," a $2 million reddish-brown contemporary sculpture, is a project of The Coming King Foundation and marks the halfway point between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It stands seven stories and is mostly hollow.

Jim McKnight, vice president of the foundation, said the cross is designed to draw attention to a 23-acre Sculpture Prayer Garden, which has yet to be completed.

The installation was a logistical chore that was supervised by a Wyoming company and used the help of local welders, steel erectors and crane companies. The cross is the largest sculpture ever created by the artist and his foundry, Eagle Bronze, of Lander, Wy.

The "walk-in" cross sculpture is being displayed at the top of a 1,930-foot high hill, at the end of a 100-yard-long, cross-shaped garden. When completed, the garden will display 77 biblical scriptures on 16-inch etched ceramic tiles in multiple languages.

Located about 60 miles northwest of San Antonio, the Kerrville park is described as a "Holy Land" that also happens to be located at the same latitude as Israel. Known as Hill Country, the community has 23,000 people and is known for the nearby Guadalupe River, scenic views and abundant wildlife.

Sudie Burditt, director of the Kerrville Convention Visitors Bureau, lauded the foundation for drawing attention to the community.

"The national publicity it has received for the Sculpture Prayer Garden is enormous, and the publicity and awareness of the city of Kerrville is great for our economy," Burditt said. "As the garden is developed and the beautiful art is put in place, the rocky, cedar-covered hillside will become a place of beauty and serenity that will attract visitors for generations to come. These visitors will eat, sleep and shop in Kerrville, making a positive growth impact on our hospitality industry."

As many as 1,000 people are expected to visit the site daily when the garden is completed.

The ambitious, non-denominational project is the brainchild of artist and evangelist Max Greiner Jr., a 1974 architecture design graduate of Texas A&M University. Max and his wife, Sherry, said the Lord instructed the pair in December 2001 to build a "last days, outdoor tabernacle" as a way of sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the world.

Two years later, the Greiners formed The Coming King Foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt arts foundation, so similar meditative gardens could be built across the USA and around the world. The project has proceeded without debt, public tax money or professional fundraisers.

"Like the American flag that was raised in World War II at Iwo Jima, we believe God will use the raising of 'The Empty Cross' to energize and inspire Christians across our land to rise up and fight for the Christian principles that founded this great country."

To date, about $2 million has been donated by Christians across America and an additional $3 million worth of monumental, contemporary Christ-honoring sculptures have been donated by three internationally collected Christian artists.

Even with the donations, the foundation still seeks about $250,000 to build the main entrance and parking lot, and $2 million more to complete interior roads for the Sculpture Prayer Garden so it can be opened to the public. Guided tours are available at the site and by live streaming video on the organization's website.

In addition to the prolonged effort to raise funds for the project, the cross has also been the target of atheists and others who opposed the landmark, including a neighboring landowner. A lawsuit involving the neighbor has been settled.

For more information, visit www.thecomingkingfoundation.org.


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