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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Notre Dame to cover historic Columbus murals; images seen as ‘demeaning’

The president of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, US, announced that in consultation with other school officials, he has decided to cover 19th-century murals in a prominent campus building that depict the life and exploration of Christopher Columbus.

‘The works by Luigi Gregori that adorn the building’s ceremonial were painted in 1882-84, not long after a devastating fire and reconstruction’ of the structure, Holy Cross Fr John I. Jenkins, wrote in a letter to the campus, released a day before Martin Luther King Jr Day, 21st January, and as the university geared up for its annual Walk the Walk Week in honour of the holiday.

The paintings ‘reflect the attitudes of the time and were intended as a didactic presentation, responding to cultural challenges for the school’s largely immigrant, Catholic population,’ he explained. ‘In recent years, however, many have come to see the murals as at best blind to the consequences of Columbus’ voyage for the indigenous peoples who inhabited this ‘new’ world and at worst demeaning toward them.’

So the murals will be covered by a woven material ‘consistent with the decor of the space, though it will be possible to display the murals on occasion,’ he continued.

‘I will establish a committee to decide on the place to display the images of the murals and the appropriate communication around the display. We will begin soon the making of covers for the murals.’

Picture: Murals by Luigi Gregori that adorn the ceremonial entrance to the University of Notre Dame’s main building, depicting the life and exploration of Christopher Columbus, are seen on 10th October 2015, on the campus in Indiana. Holy Cross Fr John I. Jenkins, president of the university, has determined the historic murals depicting Columbus’ arrival in the New World will be covered, saying he feels today those images marginalise certain groups. (CNS photo/Matt Cashore, courtesy University of Notre Dame).