One of the triple-armed Russian Orthodox crosses atop Kenai’s Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church was taken down by a boom-lift crew from Rainproof Roofing on Friday, and will eventually be replaced with a new one.
Dorothy Gray, a Holy Assumption member and treasurer of the nonprofit preservation group Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska, said the church is looking for a local craftsperson to make a replacement for the worn and weathered cross, as well as the two others on Holy Assumption’s roof, one of which has a broken arm.
Gray said the church may approach local woodworking groups with the project. One possibility has already been ruled out, though.
“We thought about metal crosses, but then we’re thinking about lightning,” she said. “There isn’t that much lightning in Alaska, but it happens.”
The onion dome where the cross formerly stood is now sealed with plastic to prevent rain from damaging the paintings, documents, and other historical and religious objects inside. In addition to the cross’ wear, Gray said the post that supported it had tilted and was letting rain into the church.
“After the restoration work that’s been on the church after the last decade, we don’t want to have any water damage on the interior,” Gray said. “There’s a tiny bit of water damage that has leaked through, but at this point it’s hardly noticeable.”
While Gray didn’t think the present crosses are original to Holy Assumption’s 1896 construction, the roof is, she said. Holy Assumption and the U.S Park Service — which designated the church as a National Historic Landmark in 1970 — plan to finish their long-running restoration of the building with a complete roof replacement.
The church indirectly paid for part of the cross’ removal with frybread. Gray said the Kenaitze Indian Tribe challenged members of the church to make 1,000 pieces of the traditional snack — a crisp fried dough spread with berries, fireweed honey, or other sweeteners — for their Opening of the Net youth fishery event. After church members gathered for marathon frying sessions this weekend, Gray estimated their proceeds from the tribe could almost cover the cost of hiring the lift.