Salvation Mountain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Leonard Knight)
Jump to: navigation, search

Coordinates: 33°15′15″N 115°28′21″W / 33.25417°N 115.47250°W / 33.25417; -115.47250

Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain is a visionary environment covering a hill in the Colorado Desert, north of Calipatria near Slab City, and several miles from the Salton Sea. It is in Imperial County, California.

The artwork is made from adobe, straw, and thousands of gallons of lead-free paint. Salvation Mountain was created by local resident Leonard Knight (1931–2014).[1] It encompasses numerous murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses, though its philosophy was built around the Sinner's Prayer.[2]

The Folk Art Society of America declared it "a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection"[3] in the year 2000. In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described it as "a unique and visionary sculpture... a national treasure... profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives".[4] Salvation Mountain was proclaimed as a national treasure by the Congressional Record of the United States.

In December 2011, the 80-year-old Knight was placed in a long-term care facility in El Cajon for dementia.[5] Leonard Knight died February 10, 2014, in El Cajon.[6]

Concern has been raised for the future of the site, which requires constant maintenance due to the harsh surrounding environment. Many visitors bring paint to donate to the project, and a group of volunteers has been working to protect and maintain the site.[7][8][9] In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support the project.[10]

The Second Mountain[edit]

The current Salvation Mountain is actually the second of its kind.[11] Knight began the first Salvation Mountain in 1980, though it was incredibly unstable. The Mountain fell into a heap of rubble, though Knight was not discouraged; he rather saw it as God's way of letting him know the Mountain was not safe. He began a second Salvation Mountain, the one currently standing, stating that he had the chance this time to "do it with more smarts".[12]

The Toxic Nightmare[edit]

Knight and his Salvation Mountain started to gain popularity and acquired the attention of the Imperial County Supervisors. Salvation Mountain is at the entrance to Slab City, which is government owned land. It became a tourist attraction and because of all of the activity, Imperial County wanted to begin taxing, but they were also concerned about a religious monument being at the opening of Slab City.[13] In July, 1994, Imperial County hired a toxic waste specialist to test the soils around Salvation Mountain, with results showing high levels of lead toxicity.[14] Knight was always extremely careful of what went into his mountain, as he did not want to harm the environment, so with the help of old and new friends, thousands of signatures were gathered for a second test to be done by an independent party of Knight's choice. That test came back negative; there were no toxins in the soil. Salvation Mountain stands as a monument not only to God or to Knight, but to an ideal and determination.


In 1998, Knight wanted to expand the mountain a bit. He gathered ideas from the Native Americans in the area around Salvation Mountain, which happen to be the Navajo. The Navajo are known for their architectural expertise. Their pueblitos inspired Knight and he then began forming the Hogan. It is a dome-like structure made of adobe and straw that insulates from heat.[15] Knight intended to live in it, though he always preferred to live in his truck.

Knight also began what he liked to call "the museum".[16] It is modeled after a hot air balloon Knight tried to create before Salvation Mountain. He intended the balloon to be seen by all below it, as it stated "GOD IS LOVE" in bright red on a white fabric. This ideal carried over to Salvation Mountain. The museum is a semi dome structure in the mountain that contains several small items given to him by friends and visitors. Each item has a significance and more often than not, visitors seek out Salvation Mountain to pray and leave an item at the mountain as symbolism of giving themselves to God. The museum is held up by adobe and straw, but also by car parts and a beautifully chaotic tangle of trees that twist within the dome and reach through the top.

Media appearances[edit]

  • Jarvis Cocker visited Salvation Mountain and interviewed Leonard Knight in 1999 for his three episode series on Outsider art "Journeys Into The Outside With Jarvis Cocker".[17]
  • Leonard Knight is interviewed at length in the 2004 documentary Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea. In this documentary he explains the inspiration for Salvation Mountain and the hopes he has for its role in a revival of the Salton Sea area.
  • The site was featured in the 2007 film Into the Wild. The film was written and directed by Sean Penn, based on a 1996 non-fiction book written by Jon Krakauer about Christopher McCandless' travels. McCandless met Leonard Knight at Salvation Mountain. Knight appears in a scene in the film as himself.
  • The music video for the British band Hurts's song "Somebody to Die For" was filmed on the Salvation Mountain.[18]
  • Huell Howser did two interviews ten years apart for his series California's Gold. In the second interview, he compares the changes made since the first interview.[19]
  • Leonard Knight and Salvation Mountain's simple message of "God Is Love" is the focus of the 2015 documentary film Leonard Knight: A Man & His Mountain directed by Andrew Blake Doyle. [20] The documentary features some of the last interviews with Knight, as well as footage from Knight's funeral and memorial service held at the mountain. [21]


  1. ^ Leonard Knight passed away February 10, 2014 in El Cajon, California following a long illness.
  2. ^ Tony, Perry. "Salvation Mountain is missing its guiding spirit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 February 2012. [dead link]
  3. ^ Larry Yust. "The Interactive Mountain of Leonard Knight", "Folk Art Society of America"
  4. ^ Barbara Boxer. "Leonard Knight and Salvation Mountain", 107th Congress, 2nd Session Issue: Vol. 148, No. 62
  5. ^ The Desert Sun: Leonard Knight, father of Salvation Mountain, dies" . accessed 02.11.2014.
  6. ^ L.A. Observed: "Leonard Knight, desert creator of Salvation Mountain was 82" . accessed 02.11.2014.
  7. ^ "The Future Of Salvation Mountain Uncertain". Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  8. ^ Honore, Marcel (August 12, 2012). "Who will save Salvation Mountain?". The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA). 
  9. ^ Honore, Marcel (November 12, 2012). "Return to Salvation Mountain". The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA). 
  10. ^ Organizational ProfileNational Center for Charitable Statistics (Urban Institute)
  11. ^ "History of Salvation Mountain". Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  12. ^ "History of Salvation Mountain". Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  13. ^, retrieved 2015-09-28  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ "History of Salvation Mountain". Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  15. ^ "History of Salvation Mountain". Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  16. ^ "History of Salvation Mountain". Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Hurts homepage
  19. ^ Howser, Huell (January 8, 1997). "Slab City (806)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archives.  And, Howser, Huell (September 7, 2009). "Desert Adventures – California's Gold Special (142)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archive. 
  20. ^ "IMDb - Leonard Knight: A Man & His Mountain". Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  21. ^ "Leonard Knight: A Man & His Mountain". Retrieved 2015-11-01. 

External links[edit]