A gold tiled dome was constructed on the Greek Orthodox church, which unexpectedly the sun reflected off of the gold tile dome a magnificent shape of a cross. The gold tile dome failed and the challenge was how to recreate the dome and preserve the cross.
Investigation of replacing the Gold Ceramic tile Exterior Dome Reflective Cross at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, CABackground:
In 1979 the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church was constructed in Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California. They constructed a 30 foot diameter gold tile dome on the church roof, and became known as the "Church with the Shining Cross." During the day as the sun reflected off of the gold tile dome surface, it reflected a magnificent shape of a cross. As you walk around the dome the cross follows you. The awe-inspiring cross, was totally unplanned, which made the church parishioners feel that their church was meant to be and was blessed.
The tiles were 1" x 1" porcelain ceramic tiles with real gold suspended within the clear glaze of the tile that was fired on in a kiln. The tiles were made in Japan, imported by Latco Tile, and supplied by Southwestern Ceramic Tile and Marble Company. There was about 1,600 square feet of tile that sold for about $100 per square foot.
About 15 years after the gold tile dome was constructed, the gold tiles started delaminating due to an improper design and installation of the gold tiles. The tile installation was a complete failure due to lack of movement joints and other installation defects that required it be completely replaced. Of course the church parishioners were in a panic because they were afraid that they would not get the cross back with the new installation.
Request: Donato Pompo, who worked for Ceramic Tile and Marble Company at the time, and had sold the original gold tile to the church. He was approached by the church to find out what caused the gold blazing cross to reflect from the tile surface and to find replacement tiles that would provide the same affect.
I contacted Latco Tile who had special ordered the 1" x 1" ceramic gold tiles ten years earlier. The same tile manufacturer did not make that tile any longer. We were able to find a sample of the original gold tile. I noticed that the edge of each tile had a chamfered edge of a certain shape. I concluded that the sun would reflect off of the angled edge of the tiles in a way that would create the shape of a large cross. We shipped the samples to a tile manufacturer in Japan and they were able to reproduce this same shape of tile. We couldn't guarantee the church that the cross would reappear with the new tile installation, but we told them that the new tile would have a similar configuration to the original tile. The church placed another order for 1,000 square feet of the gold tile for about $120 per square foot and we all then crossed our fingers...
In 1995 Klaser Tile of San Diego, California, a well known expert on installing tile domes, replaced the original failed tile installation. They made sure they properly waterproofed the dome and they installed movement joints throughout the tile installation.
Lo and behold the cross reappeared and to this day is magnificently shining on the community of Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California that can be seen from facing the east side of Interstate 5 just south of Manchester Avenue exit.
Donato Pompo, CTC CMR CSI CDT MBA, is the leading tile and stone forensic expert and consultant in North America, and he is a National Tile Contractors Association Recognized Consultant. Donato is the founder of CTaSC.