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Golden dome to shine even brighter

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, March 15, 2005

One spot on Notre Dame’s campus often shines above all the rest – the historic golden dome, which, starting March 7, began the process of being regilded for the tenth time in school history.

A scaffolding system, which takes about three weeks to complete, is currently being installed. The regilding process consists of applying 3,500 square feet of 23.9-karat gold leaf. This process will begin after the scaffolding is finished and once weather conditions are optimal, said Dennis Brown, associate director of news and information.

The regilding process is done by hand and the material, which includes eight ounces of gold, can only be applied on dry days without wind, Brown said.

According to a University press release, Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin, Wis. is handling the regilding, which will cost $300,000.

“Money for the regilding is coming from the general fund, though a benefactor is being sought for the project,” Brown said.

Though the golden dome is part of Notre Dame history, some students think the price is a bit excessive.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea, but I think there are better places the school could use the money,” said sophomore Sarah Micelli.

The last regilding took place in 1988, and, contrary to what some may believe, the dome is not required to be regilded after a certain number of years.

“It’s not automatic,” Brown said. “An evaluation was made by the University architect and others in his office, just as they do with other buildings on campus.”

Because regilding is a very delicate process and will take place over the next few months and into the summer, the dome will not be its golden self for graduation, which may be distressing to some.

“I’m sure some students will be disappointed, but because the regilding process is dependent upon calm weather conditions, the scaffolding needs to go up now so that the work can begin as soon as weather permits,” Brown said.

However, with the amount of attention the dome receives, the University believes it is important to keep it in good shape.

“The number-one tourist attraction in Indiana provides exposure that is cheap at any price,” said sophomore Preston Carter.

Brown said that Notre Dame also plans to make additional repairs to the outside of the Main Building and to paint parts of the drum on which the dome stands while the scaffolding is taking place.

The dome, which was added to the Main Building in 1882, caused much controversy because administrators thought the gold gilding would be extravagant and suggested that yellow be used instead, Brown said. However, Notre Dame founder Father Edward Sorin insisted that the dome be painted gold and, after topping it with a 16-foot-tall statue of Mary, succeeded.