Imagining heaven and earth at Mount of the Holy Cross, Colorado



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Rumors of a giant cross hidden deep in the Colorado Rocky Mountains finally proved true in 1873 with William Henry Jackson's photograph of Mount of the Holy Cross. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Thomas Moran further immortalized the cross, with many Americans imagining the peak as a Christian symbol of the righteous conquest of the West. Multiple geographical imaginations have since been quilted into the cultural fabric of the peak, such as a pilgrimage shrine, national monument, topographic oddity, Fourteener and water wilderness. The place identity, spiritual geography and iconography of these geographical imaginations are examined through participant observation and archival sources including folklore, poetry, newspaper articles, government surveys and postcards. Some geographical imaginations prove to be unexpectedly temporary, such as the national monument designation, and others surprisingly enduring, such as pilgrimage.



Christianity, Cultural identity, Documentary source, Iconography, Monument, Place name, Symbolism, Rocky Mountains