The University of Notre Dame announced plans to cover up a series of murals depicting the life of Christopher Columbus in the New World, calling the paintings “marginalizing” and “demeaning.”
The murals were painted from 1882-84 by Luigi Gregori directly on the walls of a hallway inside the iconic Notre Dame Main Building. The murals depict Christopher Columbus in the New World with American Indians.
Father John Jenkins, current president of Notre Dame, released a statement detailing the decision to censor the murals:
“In recent years, however, many have come to see the murals as at best blind to the consequences of Columbus’s voyage for the indigenous peoples who inhabited this ‘new’ world and at worst demeaning toward them.”
Jenkins said that Columbus’s arrival to the Americas was “nothing short of a catastrophe” for the native populations.
“Whatever else Columbus’s arrival brought, for these peoples it led to exploitation, expropriation of land, repression of vibrant cultures, enslavement, and new diseases causing epidemics that killed millions.”
The plan involves covering up the murals with “woven material consistent with the décor of the space, though it will be possible to display the murals on occasion.” Photographic reproductions of the murals will be displayed in a “campus setting to be determined that will be conducive to such an informed and careful consideration.”
The decision follows protests by Native American Student Association of Notre Dame in 2017 against the display of the murals. Jenkins hopes that by covering up the murals, he will not cause offense to any minority groups:
“We wish to preserve artistic works originally intended to celebrate immigrant Catholics who were marginalized at the time in society, but do so in a way that avoids unintentionally marginalizing others.”
You can read the full statement from Jenkins here.