A barren stretch of desert west of Lovelock someday may be home to one of the largest monuments in the world — larger, even than the Great Pyramids — that’s intended to stand for at least 10,000 years.
A California couple, inspired by a recurring nighttime dream of the husband, have taken the first steps toward creation of The Great Cross, a project that’s estimated to cost more than $1 billion during three decades of construction.
How big would it be?
Shaped as a cross, the structure would be 3,000 feet long — that’s roughly the distance between Reno City Hall and the front door of the Eldorado — and 1,845 feet across.
The top of a glass dome at the center of the cross would be 18 stories high, easily visible from nearby Interstate 80.
Inside, The Great Cross would be assembled from about 600,000 hollow vaults, each containing the remains of one or two people who choose to be interred in what would become one of the largest Christian cemeteries in the world.
Sale of those vaults would finance the project, explains Mike Nowland, who is working with his wife, Laurie, to bring The Great Cross to reality. They live in Simi Valley.
They’ve begun sales of vaults for cremated remains and mausoleum spaces inside The Great Cross at prices that range from $4,000 to $30,000. (For details, see www.thegreatcrossalliance.com.)
By the end of this year, the Nowlands believe they will have completed 400 sales, raising enough capital to begin construction of the first phase of the project.
They’ve talked with Q&D Construction of Sparks about building the project, although no contracts will be signed until the couple is certain the project can become a reality. They’ve acquired the water rights they need, and the Great Cross Alliance is scheduled to close on its purchase of 640 acres in December.
(The seller, New Nevada Lands, itself is no stranger to big projects. It owns more than 500,000 acres of land and 1.2 million acres of mineral rights and royalties along the Interstate 80 corridor, land that originally was granted to builders of the first transcontinental railroad.)
Once construction begins, Mike Nowland said continued work would be supported by sales and donations of $40 million to $80 million a year from Christians throughout the world who wish to support the largest physical monument in the world to their beliefs.
The Great Cross is organized as a for-profit venture.
“People don’t take nonprofits seriously,” explained Mike Nowland.
The site in the desert of Northern Nevada was selected for its low cost, for its climate that will protect The Great Cross from moisture and vegetation and for its distance from cities whose growth might threaten its future.
The construction will involve a compacted earth core that will be covered with a reinforced and waterproofed concrete shell. The 600,000 individual vaults will made from synthetic stone.
The design, which is covered by an architectural copyright, is intended as a gleaming white structure that will be easily visible from space.
The interior walls of a curved chapel at the center of the cross, meanwhile, will be inscribed with the full text of the Bible in four languages — English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Hindi. The hope, Nowland says, is that the sacred text will remain readable for at least 10,000 years.
Unlike the many people who figuratively describe a business project as a dream, The Great Cross arose in a literal sense from a dream — three of them, in fact — that came to Nowland as he slept on nights from 2006 to 2008.
In the dreams, he saw an enormous monument in the shape of a cross. The cross was created from gleaming glass blocks, each containing a peaceful body in repose.
Talking it over at the kitchen table with his wife, the couple made the decision to put their life savings into creation of a monument that would serve as a rallying symbol for Christians around the world.
“The dreamer is occasionally asked if he believes the images in the dreams were sent to him by God,” the organization said in notes about the project. “He does not know the answer.”