September 22, 1886 - The Dome and Mary gilded with gold leaf


Since the founding of the University, Father Sorin had talked about erecting a large golden dome adorned with Mary atop. One iteration of the Main Building had a wooden dome with a wooden statue of Mary on top. Since the Great Fire of '79 started near the roof, the statue caved through the dome and fell many floors below. Father Sorin felt that this occurred because he did not build it big enough. A new building was built and reopened in time for the school year in the Fall of 1879. At that time, there wasn't a dome on the building yet. The Dome would be completed and Mary would be placed on top in 1883.

Golden DomeThere was one piece of Sorin's vision that still remained: a gold coloring. Father Sorin felt very strongly about covering the Dome and Mary in gold leaf. It was grander, more brilliant and worthy of the Saint that stood there. However, many of the other priests that were on the committee felt that gilding the Dome would prove too expensive; especially since the cost of the new main building cost more than expected. One member of the committee suggested painting the Dome gold instead as it was cheaper. Sorin would have nothing of that idea. He argued back that in the long run gilding was actually cheaper as paint would need to be replaced every couple of years while gilding lasted fifteen to twenty years. Neither side would budge on their stance and a deadlock ensued.

Golden MarySince Father Sorin was the superior general of the Holy Cross community, he placed himself on the committee that would decide the Dome's fate. Once on the committee he asked to be named chairman of the group. They all agreed and Sorin now oversaw and approved all the group's decisions. With this power, he stopped attending the meetings. Through his boycott, the committee could still meet and discuss matters (other University affairs besides just the Dome) but they could not approve any decisions. Eventually, Father Sorin packed a small bag and moved across the road to Saint Mary's. He stayed there for weeks and the University nearly came to a halt unable to conduct official business. Eventually the committee passed a vote to agree to Father Sorin's vision. They went to fetch him and tell him the news.

The initial gilding cost $2,000 and Father Sorin wrote a letter asking for supporters. The project was financed by Mother Angela's mother, Mary Phalen. Mother Angela was a member of the Sisters of Holy Cross and resided at Saint Mary's. Her and Father Sorin worked very closely together on a number of projects and trip over the years. Her mother would also finance the construction of Washington Hall.




Keywords: dome, father sorin, great fire, saint marys, washington hall, mother angela, mary phalen

Posted On: 2011-09-22 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07

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   Posted By: Brandice at 2012-02-29 03:52:23[#1]
I can arleady tell that's gonna be super helpful.
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