Golden Dome to be regilded for the 11th time

Author: William G. Gilroy


The famous Golden Dome atop the University of Notre Dame's Main Building, arguably the country's most recognized campus landmark, will be regilded beginning Monday (March 7).

The project, which will include regilding the Our Lady statue atop the Dome, is expected to be completed by early September at a cost of $300,000.

A scaffolding system will be installed on the south side of the Main Building at the beginning of the project and will take approximately three weeks to complete. Those exiting the building during that time are encouraged to use the second floor center door and exterior stairs to reach the Main Quad and to avoid the buildings first floor exits.

The most recent Dome regilding was completed in 1988 by artists from Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin, Wis., who also will handle the current regilding.

Standing 197 feet above the ground at its highest point, the Golden Dome was added to the Main Building in 1882 and has been regilded on 10 previous occasions: 1886, 1893, 1904, 1912, 1924, 1933, 1948, 1961, 1971 and 1988. Wartime restrictions on precious metals postponed a regilding in 1941 until 1948 at a cost of $20,000.

The regilding process involves the application of 3,500 square feet of 23.9-karat gold leaf. The gold is so malleable that this small amount can be pounded out and used to cover the entire Dome. The material is just 3-microns thick and so delicate that workers can apply it only in wind-free weather conditions. The regilding process is done strictly by hand; no machines are used in the effort.

The 17-foot tall, 4,000-pound Our Lady statue atop the Dome was modeled after a sculpture of the Virgin erected by Pope Pius IX in Rome's Piazza di Spagna and was a gift from neighboring Saint Mary's College.

The Golden Dome looms large in the collective Notre Dame psyche. It is so central to Notre Dames institutional identity that graduates are called Domers. Notre Dame football players wear gold helmets in deference to the Dome.

The Main Building underwent a $58 million restoration project from July 1997 to July 1999. The project returned the public areas of the building to their 19 th century Victorian elegance, brought office areas to 21 st -century standards, and included structural reinforcements that have made the building sturdier. Other notable elements of the project included the addition of two elevators, the repair and reopening of the fifth floor, and the restoration of the elaborate artwork on the walls, the Christopher Columbus murals in the main corridor and the allegorical mural on the interior of the Dome.

The Main Building and the other buildings on the central campus were entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Editor's note May 1, 2023: This story originally stated the Golden Dome had been previously regildedĀ 10 times. The overall number of regildings and the years during which the processes were conducted have been updated to reflect accurate information. The amount of gold to be used in the regilding was also removed from the original story after research detected an error in the amount previously stated.