A fire blazed through a nearly 100-year-old church building in San Jose, California on Sunday.
But remarkably, the Catholic congregation’s precious crucifix survived.
Father Fermo Mantovani, the pastor of Holy Cross Parish, remembers watching a firetruck hoist the gilded, 10-foot cross high up into the air and over the building’s charred remains before carefully bringing it back down to earth.
“It was very emotional for all of us,” Mantovani told HuffPost. “I understand it as a miracle.”
The San Jose Fire Department captured the moment in a photograph, showing the firefighters surrounding Jesus to create a striking tableau vivant.
The historic crucifix, made in Italy, was first erected over the altar of the church in 1907, according to the church’s website. Back then, it was Italian immigrants who crowded into the church’s pews. Now, the parish’s 600 families are a diverse mix of Italian, Spanish, and English speakers, with mass said in all three languages every Sunday.
The blaze broke out at around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, mere minutes after Mantovani closed the building after a mass. He noticed smoke hovering over the church’s roof. Rushing back inside, he noticed fire in the choir balcony.
The roof of the building later collapsed.
No one was hurt in the incident. The parish’s adjacent parsonage and church hall remained untouched. The church's treasured Virgin Mary statue was also retrieved from the sanctuary.
The fire was accidental and "probably electrical" in nature, according to Brad McGibben, spokesperson for the San Jose Fire Department.
“We are in mourning and in shock,” Mantovani said. “We are still in the stages of examining things and seeing what happened and what is the cost.”
For now, Holy Cross is conducting masses inside its church hall.
Parishioner Ann Fitzgerald told Mercury News that she was baptized in the church and has been attending services for 93 years.
"This is a new beginning for Holy Cross. So we will work together and we will have our church,” Fitzgerald said.