New cross graces old church
The cross atop the Marienkirche, mounted there since 1863, fell in March after storms blew through the Fredericksburg area.
Local architect Stan Klein, who was put in charge of creating a new one, was shocked when he heard the cross on the building next to St. Mary’s Catholic Church on W. San Antonio Street had been damaged.
“I got a call and was told it had been damaged and I thought, ‘how could it have been damaged?” Klein said. “Apparently there was a big storm the night before, but I couldn’t imagine it damaging the cross.”
Wesley Crenwelge, Director of Liturgy at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, said he was surprised, as well.
“We looked up, saw it hanging and thought, what could’ve happened?” Crenwelge said.
Klein later discovered the cross had a steel bridle used to support a lightning rod in the cross. That bridle had loosened and started to create a crack in the cross’s limestone over the years.
Klein was told he must get the cross down soon, as the church members were afraid it might fall on someone. He wanted to get up there himself, but couldn’t find anything tall enough to take him up the full 80 feet.
“I tried to work with people at Central Texas Electric Cooperative, but their equipment only went about 50-60 feet,” Klein said.
He was able to contact the City of Fredericksburg, which sent Fredericksburg Fire Department fire truck that had a ladder with a reach of up to 90 feet.
“I’m really grateful for everyone who was able to help me get that cross,” Klein said.
He also found out later that the original stonemason, Moritz Hartmann tried to carry it up himself the whole way in 1863, but dropped the cross on the way up.
His next task was to construct a new one for the church. Klein said he was fortunate to have the original cross that broke during installation. That was found a few years ago by a janitor named Jim Chude, who was cleaning one of the storage buildings on the church campus. He compared that cross with the one that recently broke so that he could ensure the cross was designed properly.
While he wanted the look to stay the same, he didn’t want history to repeat itself.
“The original cross was cut from Comanche Peak limestone by Moritz Hartmann. He used Comanche Peak because it was easier to carve,” Klein said. “They said it was almost like cutting butter.”
He decided to make the new one out of Leuders limestone because it was a thicker, stronger material.
He also reduced the bridle in size to ensure it wouldn’t move much during times of heavy winds.
Rafael Cadena, a local stonemason, cut it to look similar to the original, and Klein got it approved by the Historic Review Board, the Texas Historical Commission and the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
His next task was to get the cross back up to its spot on the Marienkirche. He got it up there, but also discovered the new cross was too big to fit in the pocket that held the original.
“It’s interesting because nothing holds that cross up there, but gravity and that pocket,” Klein said.
Klein needed work done quickly at that point, so time was of the essence. He got in contact with Rode’s Iron and Pipe Yard, which was able to fine-tune the cross overnight.
They were able to correctly set the new 3-foot-6-inch cross, and Crenwelge said he’s very happy with Klein’s work.
“We think it’s excellent,” Crenwelge said. “He worked hard, he was able to source it and get someone to carve it out of one stone.”
Klein stressed that while the project went rather quickly, it wasn’t an overnight process.
“A lot of folks at the church were asking when it was going to be done and I wished I could’ve told them ‘by tomorrow,’ but a lot of work had to go into it,” he explained.
Overall, Klein is happy he got the opportunity to work on this new cross, and Crenwelge said the members of the church feel it keeps the history the former cross once held.