(By Karen Harvey, The St. Augustine Record, Florida). The 25-foot-tall cross above the Byzantine dome of Memorial Presbyterian Church dangled limply from atop the historic monument after hurricane Irma passed through St. Augustine. Irma finished what Hurricane Matthew started, toppling the cross that had risen above the church since 1992. It is the third of three crosses that have adorned the 127-year-old church.
“I first saw the toppled cross on Monday morning,” said the Rev. Hunter Camp, pastor of Memorial Presbyterian. “The winds of Irma hit it hard. My heart sagged in my chest.”
The cross remains secured to the dome by three of the four chains.
Damage from the heavy cross included puncture holes in the copper dome.
“Roof repairs must be made in quick order,” Camp said. “One of the concrete spires blew off and hit the north facing roof of the sanctuary, cracking Spanish tiles and causing damage to a large area.”
The ornament, an ornate Greek cross on an orb representing a globe, is similar in design to that of many Russian churches. Camp noted that Protestants churches with origins of the reformation era do not always have crosses.
Henry Flagler, who built the church in memory of his daughter, Jennie Louise Benedict, requested a cross of this design be placed on the dome of the building inspired by St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, Italy. The cross is a replica of the first wrought-iron cross, replaced in the 1960s by a steel version of the same design. The current cross is copper.
Author P. Lynn Miller said in a book detailing symbolism at Memorial Presbyterian, “As the highest exterior ornament, and the most recognizable element of the building looking at St. Augustine’s skyline, the dome can be thought of as both the literal and symbolic capstone of the architectural symbolism of Memorial’s sanctuary.”
Damage to the church buildings includes much flooding.