Lake Michigan Crucifix – Petoskey, Michigan - Atlas Obscura

Petoskey, Michigan

Lake Michigan Crucifix

Winter weather reveals a large Italian marble crucifix drowned beneath Lake Michigan. 

Submerged under some 20 feet of water and ice at the bottom of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, an 11-foot white marble cross with a lifesize statue of a crucified Jesus Christ is visible to curious spectators willing to venture out onto the frozen bay in winter.

The crucifix was crafted in Italy in 1956 at the behest of a mourning family following the tragic loss of their 15-year-old son to a freak gun accident. Weighing in at almost a ton, it arrived at the local church after its long journey with unsightly damages, including a broken arm, and was deemed unfit to honor their late child. Instead, the crucifix was sold to a local diver from the Superior Marines Divers Club in 1962, who submerged it under 65 feet of water in the middle of Little Traverse Bay as a tribute to a drowned peer.

Over 20 years later, the crucifix was moved further inland to its current location in the bay about 800 feet offshore.  Then in 1986, the president of the Little Traverse Bay Diving Club decided to inaugurate an annual winter viewing of the submerged statue, during which divers conserve the statue and situate underwater lights around it for improved visibility. The largest viewing was in 2015, when over 2,000 people congregated on the ice.

It wasn’t until March 2019 that the conditions were agreeable enough to host another viewing. A hole was cut into five feet of ice for a clear view of the statue, which attracted an estimated 1,200 curious onlookers.

Know Before You Go

The Petoskey tourism bureau broadcasts if and when a viewing will be hosted on its website. Viewings are free, and only take place between February and March when the ice is still secure. Prospective visitors should note that unsanctioned viewings are prohibited; the crucifix may only be seen when an official viewing is safe enough to take place.

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