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San Francisco, California

Prayer Book Cross

A monumental cross hides in the trees in Golden Gate Park. 

Atop the hill above Rainbow Falls, a Celtic Cross rises 57 feet into the air. It once towered over the park, today it is almost completely hidden from view.

A gift from the Church of England the Prayer Book cross was erected in 1894 for the Midwinter International Exposition that was also responsible for the band shell and music concourse area. Also known as Drake’s Cross, it commemorates the first Anglican services read in the new world, by Sir Francis Drake’s chaplain.

Built on one of the higher points in Golden Gate Park it was originally intended to be visible from the sea. Today, dense trees hide it not only from pious mariners but almost entirely from a passerby on the road just a few yards away.

There may be a reason for its lack of visibility. The city of San Francisco had to sell off the large Mount Davidson cross after a 1990 lawsuit declared it to be a violation of California constitution. The same may indeed apply to the Prayer Book cross, were anyone able to see it.

Know Before You Go

Hike up from the trail next to Rainbow Falls