World's Tallest Our Lady of Guadalupe
Standing 33 feet tall -- purposefully three feet taller than the previous record-holder -- Our Lady of Guadalupe commemorates an especially well-timed visit by Mary, mother of God, in the 16th century, which helped the Conquistador Cortez to "convert 75,000 Aztec Indians from pagan rituals to Catholic worship," according to a news clipping hanging in the gift shop.
Our Lady was the inspiration of Pat and "Deacon Ed" Heinz, who bought the farm on which she stands just to build the statue -- a testament to faith and liberal building laws.
Ed, who worked at a nearby nuclear power plant, prayed for divine assistance in amassing the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to build Mary. His prayers were answered by Richard Hyslin, head of the art department at a Texas college, who agreed to donate his services for free. Until then, Hyslin's largest sculpture had been a 15-foot tall King Kong for a miniature golf course.
The statue was dedicated on August 5, 1995, and Hyslin did a good job. Mary stands atop an angel and a cloud, which boosts her total height to 50 feet.
Attached to the figure's back is something resembling the World's Tallest Toaster Coil: her holy radiance. It's made of metal, and during a violent summer lightning storm in flat, northeastern Ohio, one requires unfaltering faith to linger for long.
Mary faces east, and the statue surface is decorated with thousands of tiny mosaic tiles, richly colored, reminding us of two happy Krishna giants we'd seen across the state line in West Virginia.
In front of Mary is a pond, surrounded by a giant strand of white rosary beads and a crucifix, which are lit at night. As with other heaven-directed giant devotionals, it is difficult to appreciate their scale from a vantage point on earth.
The most striking thing about this mighty Mary is that she stands out in the middle of nowhere -- and she is set so far back from the road that, for all of her tallness, she might easily be missed by passing motorists.
For puny human mortals, however, it's definitely a lot safer to have her back there when the thunderbolts fly.