Port Gibson, county seat of Claiborne County, Mississippi, is home to an unusual and somewhat characteristic work.
On the top of the First Presbyterian Church – in reality, on the steeple, instead of a cross, there is a golden hand with a finger pointing to heaven.
Located on what the locals describe as “Church Street”, one of Mississippi’s most picturesque and historic churches has hosted this famous 200-kg hand since the 1860s.
What is the story behind the creation of this unusual sculpture?
Pastor Dr. Zebulon Butler was the first to serve the congregation of faithful when, in 1807, he settled in Port Gibson. He led them into building the first place of worship, a modest, small brick building.
In 1859, when the congregation reached 160 members, they decided to build the current sacred structure.
The idea for the “Hand Pointing to Heaven” came to the local people from a desire to honor their pastor who, in 1860, passed away due to illness.
Indeed, it was the pastor’s habit to point his hand to the sky during his fiery sermons.
That treasured gesture was so impressed by his fellow citizens that they decided to turn it into a memorial, which later became the town’s symbol.
The first version was made of wood by a local craftsman. The metal version that replaced it in 1903 recently underwent a major restoration.
The statue was removed from the top of the church on June 26, 2017 (an operation that has caused the inhabitants some concern). It was then sent to the American Stripping Company in Manassas Park, Virginia, to be cleaned, repaired and prepared for the re-gilding.
All the gilding was done by The Gilder’s Studio, a renowned restoration company in Maryland.
The restoration team, known for other important jobs such as the MGM Macau’s Golden Lion and the restoration of the General Sherman statue at New York’s Grand Army Plaza, completed its work in August.
The golden hand returned home on the 16th of that same month.
According to local sources, the project lasted for two months and cost the church about $ 43,000.
Photographs belong to The Gilders Studio – Instagram