A lightning bolt early Wednesday struck and landed a knockout punch to a stone cross that had beckoned parishioners from atop a Minneapolis church for 75 years.

The signature 3-foot-tall cross over the main entrance to St. Helena Catholic Church on E. 43rd Street, just west of Hiawatha Avenue, was hit shortly after 4 a.m., neighbors reported to parish officials.

“In the decade we’ve lived here, we’ve never heard such a loud explosion,” said Steve Clift, a parishioner who lives across the street and has two children who attend the church’s school.

“It seemed right on top of us. The echo of rumbling sounded like a long train.”

Along with the cross toppled from its perch just above a statue of St. Helena, rubble rained down, causing some exterior damage to the brick and stone church and the steps to the main entrance. Nature’s electrical surge also shorted out the elevator, said Mike Petruconis, business manager for the parish of nearly 500 families.

The church was founded in a wooden structure in 1914. Its current home was built in 1940 and included the now-doomed cross. The parish school serves kindergarten through eighth grade.

“The building’s been here for 75 years, and we never had a lightning strike,” said Petruconis.