World War I Memorial Door

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1924, University President Rev. Matthew Walsh dedicated the World War I Memorial at Notre Dame before saying a military field mass in front of it.  The memorial is an addition to the east transept of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart designed by Notre Dame architects Francis Kervick and Vincent Fagan.  The professors also designed Cushing Hall of Engineering, Howard Hall, Lyons Hall, Morrissey Hall, and South Dining Hall.

GNDL 28/29: Basilica of the Sacred Heart – Vincent Fagan artists' rendering of the World War I Memorial Door, c1923.
Vincent Fagan artist’s rendering of the World War I Memorial addition to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1923.

The cry for a memorial for Notre Dame’s contributions to the Great War began shortly after armistice in 1919.  The memorial initially was going to have inscribe all 2500 Notre Dame active students, alumni, and faculty members who served.  In that number were two future University Presidents who served as chaplains during WWI – Rev. Matthew Walsh and Rev. Charles O’Donnell.  In the end, the tablets only list the names of the 56 who sacrificed their lives in the war.

GHOP 1/08: Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior World War I Memorial Door before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1930s-1944. The statues were placed in 1944.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior World War I Memorial door before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1930s-1944.  The statues were placed in their nitches through the campus statue project in 1944.

The Notre Dame Service Club worked diligently to raise funds for the memorial through dances, Glee Club concerts, and general petitions in Scholastic.  Notre Dame formed a post of Veterans of Foreign Wars in January 1922, which then took up the efforts.  The VFW disbanded in 1923, as there would be few veteran students left on campus to keep the post going.  They had hoped to have the memorial complete by the end of their run, but it would still be another year before it would be finished.

A moulded Gothic arch in deep reveal frames a pair of oak doors with twisting iron hinges. Each door contains a tiny opening with a list of stained glass, one carrying the emblem of the Tudor Rose and the other a Poppy.  (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

In January 1923, a special committee of Notre Dame’s VFW post approved Vincent Fagan’s design for the memorial to be a new side-entrance to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the idea favored by University President Walsh (see sketch above).  Scholastic noted that “[t]he design is beautiful and appropriate and will add charm to the campus as well as ‘hold the mind to moments of regret'” (Scholastic, March 24, 1923, page 677).

These [sic] is a splay on the outside of the doors and in the masonry of the arch to carry the names of the soldier dead.  The stone lintel above the door bears the inscription:  “In Glory Everlasting!”  Over the lintel is a carved panel with two strong eagles supporting a shield bearing the university seal and it is surmounted by the Chi and Rho of Christ’s monogram:  The eagles carry in their claws a ribbon which reads “God, Country, Notre Dame.” (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)
In the splayed sides about waist high are two projecting corbels on each side [the military figures].  Every Memorial Day these corbels will support the altar table for the military Field Mass offered up for the repose of the souls of those whose names are inscribed above.  Flanking the deepness of the door itself two buttresses rise, shaping themselves into niches with tracery toward the cap.  Over half way up they break back, leaving a supporting ledge for a statue of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael, one on each buttress.  From these ledges there are raised shields bearing the fleur-de-lys and the sword, while high across the facade of the porch from buttress to buttress we read: “Our Gallant Dead.” (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)
When the memorial was finally dedicated on Memorial Day 1924, it wasn’t quite yet complete.  However, it would be finished in time for Commencement.  At the dedication, President Walsh remarked,

 The real purpose of a memorial, from the Catholic point of view, is to inspire a prayer for those we desire to remember.  It is very proper that this memorial should be a part of the Church of Notre Dame.

No one who knows Notre Dame need be told of the spirit of loyalty and faith that has animated this university from its beginning.  We should imitate our dead in that they have shown us the lesson of patriotism.  If only the people of America would follow their example there would be no discrimination because of race or creed.  When Washington said that religion and morality are the basis of patriotism he gave us the definition to every patriotic move at Notre Dame.

It is to the boys of the World War and to the men of the Civil War that this memorial is dedicated.  Let us ask God that this memorial will not only be beauty in stone, but also a reminder to pray for the men to whom it is dedicated.
(Notre Dame Daily, May 21, 1924, page 1)

Inside the doors is a small stone-lined vestibule leading into the church and lighted by two narrow lancets of leaded antique glass bearing medallions of warrior saints. The Memorial is the result of the faithful efforts of the Notre Dame Veterans of Foreign Wars and the cooperation of the university. Its design and construction have been in the hands of Messrs. Kervick and Fagan of the architectural department, and a new spot of interest is created in the northwest comer of the main quadrangle. (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

For many years, the memorial door was the natural place to hold mass on Memorial Day and other military occasions.  With the changes made to altar placement with Vatican II and the academic year ending well before Memorial Day, this tradition has gone by the wayside.  The memorial remains an important corner of campus and the “God, Country, Notre Dame” inscription is often quoted today.

GNDS 5/11: Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I (WWI) Memorial Door, 1925.
GNDS 5/11: Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I (WWI) Memorial Door, 1925.Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I Memorial Door, 1925.
GDIS 29/02: Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart's World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530.
Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530.
GPUB 06/39: Three ROTC students, one member of each military branch (Navy, Air Force, Army), standing in front of the World War I Memorial Door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1960s-1970s.
Three ROTC students, one member of each military branch (Navy, Air Force, Army), standing in front of the World War I Memorial door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1960s-1970s.


Notre Dame Daily
GNDL 28/29
GHOP 1/08
GNDS 5/11
GDIS 29/02
GPUB 6/39

Sorin Hall Porch

“It was not like that in the olden days, in the days beyond recall,
When everybody got ducked that lived in Sorin Hall.”
Dome yearbook]

In the latter part of the 19th century, enrollment at Notre Dame continued to swell.  Sorin Hall was built in 1889 and expanded in 1897 to accommodate the collegiate students whose population was outgrowing the living space in Main Building.  Sorin Hall was Notre Dame’s first dormitory building to offer private quarters, and a certain level of freedom, for the collegiate students.  However, Sorin’s famous porch was not added until 1905.  The need for the porch went beyond pure architectural aesthetics.  It was built as a deterrent of student pranks.

Sorin Hall exterior, c1890s

Pranks are inevitable in a close-knit setting among college students.  In the early 1900s, students would amuse themselves by throwing water out of upper-level windows of Sorin Hall, much to the chagrin of passers-by entering the dorm.  The final straw was when the beloved “Colonel” William Hoynes, dean of the Law School and Sorin Hall professor-in-residence, supposedly fell victim to this popular prank.  Immediately thereafter, construction of a porch began on the eastern facade of Sorin Hall to protect visitors from an unexpected deluge of water.  The porch was completed in April 1905.

Sorin Hall residents posed on the front steps of Sorin Hall, c1890s. “Colonel” William Hoynes is in the center with a top hat.

The water pranks did not completely cease with this addition, as students could crawl out on top of the flat-roofed porch.  However, the pranksters had to be slier as they were more exposed to getting caught.  Stories of the Hoynes incident lived on in the inaugural 1906 Dome yearbook and for a few years there after.  As a happy accident, this stately porch has become a significant part of Sorin Hall’s identity as a place to gather and as a stage for concerts, speeches, and the annual talent show.  Even Colonel Hoynes himself, who had a flare for the theatrical, often entertained alumni and visitors on the very porch that might not exist if it weren’t for a fateful prank.

Sorin Hall exterior with an American flag and blue banner on the porch that reads “God, Country, Notre Dame,” August 2002


CNDS 14/29:  Sorin Hall histories by Philip Hicks, 1979-1980
Dome yearbooks 1906-1907
GGPP 2/16
GGPP 2/11
GMDG 7/21

Campus Statue Project

In the 1940s, during the midst of World War II, Notre Dame embarked on an ambitious campus beautification project, which would fill twenty empty niches on buildings around campus, including many that had stood vacant for decades.  In 1943, classes in the Art Department were cancelled due to lack of fine art students.  While such classes remained for the Architecture students, the faculty and artists in residence with the Art Department had some time on their hands to concentrate on the campus statue project.

The first building to see such an installation was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  In May 1944, St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel finally found their home at the east World War I Memorial Door.  The Memorial door itself was originally added to the Basilica in 1924, left with empty niches for twenty years.

People exiting the World War I Memorial Door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart after the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1940s

Few may have been “aware of the sculpture creations going on in the Old Natatorium Building behind the Dome.”  Fortunately, Rev. John J. Bednar, CSC, sculptor of many of those statues, wrote a letter in 1980 to then-Notre Dame Magazine editor Ron Parent describing his involvement in this campus sculpture project.  Below are excerpts from Bednar’s letter (at times Bednar refers to himself in the third-person):

Rev. John J. Bednar, CSC,’s sculpture of “St. Augustine, Bishop,” on Dillon Hall, c1944. Photo by Wally Kunkle.

“[I]t might be of interest to some that all the statues were done in artificial stone, a cement mix consisting of Portland cement, white cement, silica, marble dust, and for slight coloring, Burnt Siena powder, a warm brown color.  The figures had to be made in clay from which a mold was formed for pouring the cement mix.  Father O’Donnell would not consent to have the figures carved out of limestone – too slow and expensive a process.  As it was, the niches on campus buildings had been neglected for too many years.  The World War I Memorial had the names of Joan of Arc and St. Michael carved in Gothic script below the niches in 1924, empty niches, and now we were in the middle of World War II when John Bednar filled those two niches with their namesakes!

World War I Memorial Door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel (1944), c1924-1928

“The opportunity to fill all the empty niches on campus facades came when Father Szabo of South Bend brought Eugene Kormendi to meet with John Bednar, the sculptor in the Art Department and to see if Kormendi could obtain any sculpture commissions from the University, a likely outlet for a sculptor.  I suggested that we could fill all the empty niches on the campus which I had been eying for years.  I had been studying sculpture under the tutelage of Chicago’s foremost sculptor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, (received my M.F.A. in sculpture in 1940 and had introduced sculpture into the program of the Art Department at Notre Dame the same year.)  The Szabo-Kormendi visit was perfectly timed for a sculpture project on the campus.

Rev. John J. Bednar, CSC,’s sculpture of Cardinal John Henry Newman, c1944

“A reliable witness to the production of the campus sculptures was Tony Lauck, a Moreau seminarian at the time and a sculptor of merit, who also wished to work in the Bednar-Kormendi studio on his own project, a huge block of wood for a standing figure of Christ.  Permission granted and Tony brought two other seminarians to help him with a double-handled cross-cut saw for the preliminary shaping of the Christ figure.  A bronze casting was made of that wood carving which can be seen today on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church, South Bend.

“The St. Jerome statue on another Dillon wall, showing the great Biblical Scholar beating his chest with a rock instead of a scourge, Bednar shipped to Indianapolis before installation in the niche.  I won a prize in sculpture at the John Herron Art Museum in a juried exhibition  The $150 prize paid for the round trip and for the clay, the cements, marble dust etc., and brought back the approval of the jury.”

Rev. John J. Bednar, CSC, in an art studio with a working prototype of St. Jerome for Dillon Hall, c1944
Scholastic 08/18/1944 article regarding the “Beautification Project Progresses,” by Ronald Byersmith and Dick Mellett, regarding the twenty statue installations across campus during the 1940s

Among the Sculpture on Campus Installed in the 1940s:

Works by Eugene Kormendi:
Law School Building – “St. Thomas More”; “Christ the King” [due to deterioration, these two statues were disposed of during the 2010 construction of the Law School addition]
Alumni Hall – “The Graduate”
Dillon Hall – “Commodore Barry”
Lyons Hall Arch – “St. Joseph with Lilly”
Morrissey Hall – “St. Andrew”
Rockne Memorial Entrance – “St. Christopher”
St. Liam Hall Infirmary – “The Good Shepherd”; “St. Raphael the Archangel”

Works by Rev. John J. Bednar, CSC
Alumni Hall Courtyard – “St. Thomas Aquinas”; “St. Bonaventure with Cardinal’s Hat”
Dillon Hall – “St. Augustine, Bishop” (courtyard); “St. Jerome”; “Cardinal Newman, Scholar” (above west doorway)
Basilica of the Sacred Heart – “St. Joan of Arc”; “St. Michael Archangel”

Works by James Kress (Detroit)
Howard Hall – “St. Timothy”


GBED 1/01 [photographs and letter from Bednar to Parent]
GNDS 24/49
GJJC 1/36