Eureka's Jesus on the Mountain
For more than forty years, an astounding statue of Jesus Christ has looked out over Eureka Springs.
Conceived and initiated by Gerald L.K. Smith, a religious and political leader active during the Great Depression and World War II, the statue is nestled among the trees on the grounds of Eureka's Outdoor Drama - The Great Passion Play.
The Great Passion Play right here in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is "America's Number One Attended Outdoor Drama" according to the Institute of Outdoor Theatre and Drama of East Carolina University at Greenville.
Gerald L.K. Smith was an opponent of President Franklin Roosevelt, he was a one-time leader in Senator Huey Long's "Share Our Wealth" campaign and ran for president on independent tickets during the 1940s and 1950s. He was a major opponent of the Alaska Mental Health Bill of 1955, a Congressional measure that many anti-Communists believed could lead to the creation of an American concentration camp in Alaska.
Later in his life, Smith moved to Eureka Springs, where he visualized the building of a religious amusement park atop Magnetic Mountain. He conceived the Christ of the Ozarks as a centerpiece for his planned park. Smith died in 1976 and his amusement park dream was never fully realized, but his astounding statue of Jesus on the mountaintop has become one of the most visited attractions in Eureka Springs.
Completed in 1966 by the Elna M. Smith Foundation, the statue was sculpted by Emmet Sullivan, who was also noted as one of the sculptors of the massive Presidential artwork at Mount Rushmore. The top of the statue soars some 1,500 feet above sea level (67 feet above the top of Magnetic Mountain) and its width, from fingertip to fingertip is 65 feet. It is one of the tallest statues in both the United States and the world.
Smith and his wife are buried at the foot of the Christ of the Ozarks, overlooking the valley and city of Eureka Springs. He was a major figure in bringing the economically depressed city back to life as a tourist destination during the 1960s.
The Christ of the Ozarks is located on the grounds of the Great Passion Play, one of the most popular live performances in the South. Other points of interest on the grounds include a section of the Berlin Wall, the Bible Museum, the Holy Land Tour, the Museum of History and, of course, the Great Passion Play itself.
The statue and grounds are open to the public 24 hours a day.