The Christ of the Caribbean Statue

Image credit: Dean Hulse via See St. John
Image credit: Dean Hulse via See St. John

Over the weekend we told you about the legend of Easter Rock and how it rolls down to Hawksnest Bay the night before Easter so it can get a drink of water. Well that got me thinking about some other fun facts and tales around here that you may not be familiar with. So today we’d like to tell you about the Christ of the Caribbean statue that used to sit up on Peace Hill.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Peace Hill, it’s located off of North Shore Road between Gibney and Jumbie beaches. There’s a small parking lot that fits a handful of cars adjacent to a very short trail that leads up to Peace Hill.

There are the ruins of an old windmill at the top of the hill and the views up there are simply stunning. You can see over Caneel Bay and out to St. Thomas to the west, Jost Van Dyke to the north and St. John’s North Shore and out to Tortola to the east.

Check out a few pics:

peace hill

peace hill view from windmillIMG_9953 2

peace hill view with charlie

For just over 40 years, a very impressive statue stood high atop Peace Hill – Christ of the Caribbean. According to the owners of Hummingbird Hill (a villa here on St. John), Colonel Wadsworth commissioned St. Johnians Terrence Powell and Thomas Thomas to construct the statue in 1953. Its purpose was to oversee and bless the land and sea.

“Remarkably, as it seemed to have the properties of a sail, the creation withstood numerous hurricanes,” the owners of Hummingbird Hill wrote on their website. “However, it finally succumbed to the strength of Hurricane Marylyn in 1995. The islanders decided not reconstruct the statue. Much like the petroglyphs, the Christ of the Caribbean was a symbol of St. John and you could find, for example, gold and silver pendants in the shape of the statue in local shops. After almost twenty years, they are harder to find.”

Pretty neat, right?

You can still see some of the ruins of the old Christ of the Caribbean statue up at Peace Hill. This plaque remains nearby.

peace hill sign

More news you can use today, folks. Have a great day everyone!

7 thoughts on “The Christ of the Caribbean Statue”

  1. This is very cool! I’ve heard some strange accounts of what this place was actually used for in the past. I’ve heard that Robert Oppenheimer lived nearby on the beach. I heard the property was gifted to the Navy Captain and the sugarcane mill structure was built to be descrete and employed to house soldiers so they could look out over the water and be sure no one was coming to kidnap Oppenheimer. This area acted as a buffer of protection on the water side as The 170+/- acres of land adjacent to Oppenheimer beach was under constant security to protect the very wealthy Rockefeller family. These two separate measures were ideal for our “Big Brother” to sequester Oppenheimer and keep him safe from being snatched up by opposing military forces to use his knowledge of the A-bomb for Hitler. Of course I’ve never looked into this, but apparently… from what I’ve heard, which may or may not be true, Hitler was looking for Oppenheimer after the Nazis were able to secure “Heavy Water” (Deuterium oxide) because they were so close to building an atomic bomb of their own. Again, these are stories I have heard about but haven’t done any research myself. Just thought it was an interesting story others might be able to substantiate or discredit. I welcome any feedback! Have a nice day everyone!

    • Mike Rose- It’s fun to think there was that much intrigue on St. J but Oppie lived on the island late in his life, well after WWII. At least he found some peace near Peace Hill, living out his last days doing some sailing right off his beach. You can Google some more history and info about the building that still sits there if interested. Peace out!

  2. Huge fan of Peace Hill…used to get breakfast sandwiches at Deli Groto (now North Shore Deli) and eat them on the stone outcropping that I’m pretty sure was part of the base of the Christ of the Caribbean statue. I’ve also heard rumor that many locals and the NPS considered the hurricane that eventually took out the statue to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. I guess God thought it was a bit of an eyesore too 🙂

  3. Don’t think Hitler was alive when the Oppenheimers 1st saw STJ on their honeymoon.

    “This area first drew the attention of artistic New York newlyweds Robert and Nancy Gibney in the 1940s. Robert was a writer and artist and Nancy was an editor at Vogue when the two honeymooned on St. John in 1946. The couple quickly fell in love with St. John and eventually purchased 40 acres of land on Hawksnest Bay. The Gibneys settled into island life and made St. John their home, building a house and raising three children.

    J. Robert Oppenheimer began vacationing on the shores of St. John in the mid-1950’s with his wife Kitty and daughter Katherine, known to all as Toni. During those years Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, was living in Princeton, New Jersey, and dealing with the security hearing. He would eventually lose his security clearance amid loud and incorrect insinuations of treason.

    In 1957 Oppenheimer purchased two acres of land on Hawksnest Bay from the Gibneys. He built a simple home on the beach and spent much time sailing with Kitty and Toni. Oppenheimer died of throat cancer at his home in Princeton, New Jersey in 1967 and Kitty passed away in 1972.”

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  4. I always understood that location to be the one where the slaves jumped to their death after the slave revolt. When the statue was there, I think it drew more people to seek out the spot. It was there when I lived on island. I actually miss it. The photo reminds me of the less populated StJ that I fondly remember.

  5. I’ve always admired the statue without knowing anything about its origin. It was very exciting to find out that my grandfather Terrence Powell was one of the gentlemen who built this statue. I told my 56 year old best friend, who was also my little boyfriend in kindergarten about it and he told me that the other gentleman Mr. Thomas Thomas, is his grandfather. We were both thrilled to know that both of our grandfathers built this statue together! Small world lol. My grandfather passed away in 1987, but he never told me about it, I am somewhat surprised that he never mentioned it to me after all the talks we had during my teenage years. Anyway, Papi, I am so proud of your historical accomplishment.
    Love you always…
    Cynthia Powell

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