Word of Life mural receives regular maintenance

Author: Natalie Davis Miller, Managing Editor, NDWorks

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You can’t walk, bike or drive past Notre Dame Stadium and not look up into the outstretched arms of what is fondly known as “Touchdown Jesus” on the south side of the Hesburgh Library. Formally titled “The Word of Life,” the mural depicts Jesus Christ the Apostles, saints and scholars. Visually situated by chance behind and above the north end zone of the stadium, it has been celebrating touchdowns since 1964. And anything half century-plus in age takes a little upkeep from time to time to maintain its stellar appearance. The mural is no exception.

Drone technology allows regular checking of the building and every five to seven years a masonry restoration crew takes a swingstage, the rigging necessary to get up high, to work on all elevations of the Hesburgh Library.

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“We’re continually assessing the conditions of our campus building facades including masonry walls, windows, doors, roofs — the building envelope that keeps the buildings warm, safe and dry,” said Anthony Polotto, director of construction and quality assurance. “We are especially mindful of the importance of the Word of Life mural and periodically make inspections and repairs to it.”

Indiana winters bring freezing and thawing of water which could potentially loosen parts. The stones that make up the mural are attached with a mortar, and the larger pieces are attached with an additional physical anchor. The masonry restoration crew specializing in tuckpointing and sealants, physically touches the surface, making sure that sealants are solid and that water isn’t getting behind the panels and pieces that make up the surface of the mural.

The maintenance work on the mural took about two days this June and the other sides of the building, covered in Mankato limestone, are also inspected and repaired as necessary. “Two men and a little over a week complete all the maintenance and repairs and inspection necessary for us to feel very safe and secure, and that things are in great shape,” says Polotto.  

Watch a video on the history and making of the Word of Life mural here.
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Originally published by Natalie Davis Miller, Managing Editor, NDWorks at ndworks.nd.edu on June 29, 2020.