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Miracle on St. George's Hill? - Did the big cross move?

The big cross on the St. George's Avenue hill is a local landmark in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. 120 feet tall and brightly lit, it's the first sight seen by many U.S. visitors crossing the International Bridge into Canada.

The big cross on the St. George's Avenue hill is a local landmark in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

120 feet tall and brightly lit, it's the first sight seen by many U.S. visitors crossing the International Bridge into Canada.

It's intended to be a symbol of spiritual unity at the geographic centre of North America.

At the foot of the cross is a non-denominational Oasis of Peace garden.

Also located there is Notre Dame des Grands Lacs, a French-language school operated by the Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique du Nouvel-Ontario.

And around that school, there's word of an exceedingly odd occurrence said to have happened there 11 days ago.

Witnesses tell that the cross was seen doing something nobody has ever seen before, something that a consulting engineer says is impossible.

The school's principal, its groundskeeper, a math teacher and a large number of students saw the steel structure swaying from side to side during a 150-minute period on Monday, January 24.

Math class moved out of portable

The unusual observation was sufficient to prompt school officials to move teacher Christopher Gravelle (shown above) and his Grade 10 math class out of a nearby portable into the school's library.

The phenomenon also prompted them to call in a consulting engineer from M.R. Wright and Associates Co. Ltd., who found no structural damage but also insisted there was no way the cross could have flexed the way witnesses insist it did.

The cross's alleged activity was first witnessed by students, who reported it to Stephane Picard, the school's principal.

Math teacher Gravelle tells that around 8:30 a.m. on January 24, he was in the main school building when he was approached by Picard.

"My principal came up to me and said, 'come here, I want you to see something,' and we stepped out from the school and walked to the cross," Gravelle recalls.

He was preparing to teach his Grade 10 math class in a portable located about 20 meters northwest of the cross.

'It moved left to right, a foot in each direction'

"I saw the cross was basically wavering. It seemed like it was moving left to right about a foot in each direction," Gravelle says.

The principal also contacted Gerry Ouellette, author of the 2002 book The Cross at the Centre of the Continent and the site's groundskeeper.

"I got a call from the principal of the school," Ouellette says. "'You better come up and look at this', is what he told me."

Ouellette says he arrived at the Oasis of Peace a short time after receiving the call and also witnessed movement in the solid steel structure.

"I didn't even believe it when I saw it," he says.

"About 25 or 30 feet from below the cross-arms, down to the bottom, was just stationary. And the top part was just going left-to-right, left-to-right, left-to-right," Oullette insists.

'That thing never moves'

The sight rattled Ouellette, considered the local expert on the Cross on the Hill, as the structure is commonly known around the Sault.

"That thing never moves," he says. "I thought that it's going to have to come down because that thing doesn't move with the way it's braced and welded," Ouellette said.

Gravelle, who's been teaching at Notre Dame des Grands Lacs since 1991, says that principal Picard shared Ouellette's concern for the structure's integrity and decided to relocate Gravelle's classes into the library until further notice.

Students from both Notre Dame des Grands Lacs and the adjacent St. Basil Secondary School had opportunity to come out in the yard and watch the cross sway until around 11 a.m.

Gravelle, who also teaches music, described the motion of the cross as similar to that of a metronome.

'There was no wind'

He timed it and found it to be moving about 44 beats per minute.

"It was constant, like a metronome and it was going left to right," Gravelle says.

Both Gravelle and Ouellette reported hearing a cracking noise as the the top of the cross reached either extreme of its arc.

"There was no wind and it was a cold day, that I know. If there was wind, I could understand, but there was no wind at all. It was a constant, the same rhythm and lasted all morning," Gravelle tells

Ouellete says that the next step the principal took was to contact Bob Wood of M.R. Wright and Associates Co. Ltd., a group of consulting engineers, to have the cross checked for structural damage.

No movement since 11 a.m. on January 24

But by the time Wood arrived, the cross was motionless again.

"It wasn't moving and there was nothing wrong with it after 11 a.m.," said Ouellette.

He reported that the engineer said there was no way the cross could have been moving at any time.

"Mr. Wood said he thought it would have been damaged if it had been moving," said Ouellette.

Since 11 a.m. on January 24, no one has reported seeing the cross move again.

As seen in the above photo, it appears undisturbed and undamaged.

"It was really something to see, though," said Ouellette, who says he doesn't know why the alleged phenomenon occurred or why it happened.

He's certain, however, that it's a sign of something.

Full coverage of this story

Miracle on St. George's Hill? - Did the big cross move? Engineer can't explain swaying-cross reports Grade 11 physics and the Mystery of the Swaying Cross Soil stability problems are nothing new on St. George's Hill

The history of the Cross on the Hill

To read some of Gerry Ouellette's writings about the Cross on the Hill, please click on the following links:

The story of Sault Ste. Marie Ontario's illuminated cross Oasis of Peace: the cross at the centre of the continent

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