'Madonna of Peace' - Atlas Obscura

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'Madonna of Peace'

Jenner, California

A striking eight-story-high obelisk perched on a coastal California cliff. 


Perched high above the Sonoma Coast, about three miles north of Fort Ross, is a striking obelisk that might catch your eye. Known as the Madonna of Peace, it’s hidden in a tiny state park (the second smallest in California) right behind the Timber Cove Resort. 

The sculpture (also called “Peace Obelisk” or “The Expanding Universe”) is one of several in Northern California by Italian artist Beniamino “Benny” Bufano and is an example of his anti-war viewpoint. The sculpture is shaped roughly like a missile, and was created around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was the final of his “projectiles of peace,” completed just months before the artist died in 1970.

His first sculpture in the series was a 34-foot-tall monument simply titled PeaceIt debuted at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. Bufano wanted to build another, larger projectile of peace. In the 1950s, he traveled to the Soviet Union and proposed the idea to Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin, who declined the artist’s offer.

But when Bufano was commissioned to create a sculpture in Timber Cove in the 1960s, he took the opportunity to create a towering monument to peace. The obelisk was built out of donated materials: redwood, steel, fiberglass, and mosaic tile. It took about a year to build the 68-foot body of the sculpture, but when it came time to place the head on top they found it was too heavy. For years, the head sat next to the base of the incomplete statue. In 1969, a special crane was brought in to lift the head into its rightful place, but it was accidentally placed backward. In February 1970, a second face was installed on the statue. Bufano died just a few months later in August.

Know Before You Go

You can access it at any time, but daytime is recommended, as it is not illuminated.

Park in the Timber Cove Resort parking area or in the overflow area just north (no fees). If you're so bold, you can walk through the hotel lobby and through the restaurant out to the back patio. Alternatively you can go around the hotel, to the right, where you'll see a path and a sign explaining the sculpture.

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