The Holy City of the Wichitas is truly unique and a somewhat eclectic place located in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. It is the home to the United State’s longest running Easter passion play, which started in 1926 and is held outdoors in a recreated biblical times Jerusalem. The Holy City was created by the vision of Reverend Anthony Mark Wallock who was a pastor at Lawton’s First Congregational Church. Each year the play grew its cast and size of its audience, and due to its popularity federal funds were set aside for the Easter Pageant. With the help of some of the works programs created by FDR during the Great Depression buildings were erected for the play. By 1936, Calvary’s Mount, Pilate’s Judgment Hall, Towers, Herod’s Court, and many other buildings were created. The passion play reached its peak in popularity in 1939 when over 200,000 visitors saw the performance. Today the play is seen roughly by 5,000 people per year.
Neither Karen nor I have ever seen the passion play the buildings were created for, but we do stop by and look around the place every time we are in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. The buildings are very interesting to look at and it seems like with the backdrop of the Wichita Mountains along with the natural stone building structures the setting for the play could not be much better. We like to walk around the place despite the electronic 1950ish religious organ music being played in the background as we walk.
Probably the grandest thing in the 66 acre area is the white eleven foot high marble statue of Jesus that was carved in 1975 by Italian sculptor Georgio Silva. The statue sits on actual rocks from Jerusalem, which is pretty interesting all by its self. There is something strange but at the same time a comforting feeling one gets seeing a larger than life statue of Christ overlooking grazing bison. To think that in Southwestern Oklahoma in the middle of the Wichita Mountains some pastor in the early 1900s came up with the idea of making a replica of biblical Jerusalem is just somewhat dumbfounding and at the same time pretty cool that their dream became a reality.
I would have to say that the Holy City of the Wichitas is just one of those places that just screams out Americana. It is right up there with the car Stonehenge and world’s largest ball of twine. I would say only in America would a person find in the middle of a wildlife refuge, mind you, ancient looking buildings where the state’s longest running passion play is held.
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