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Nittany Lion Shrine Marks 75 Years

by on October 24, 2017 10:30 AM

The Nittany Lion Shrine is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The gift from the Class of 1940 was officially dedicated as part of Penn State’s Homecoming festivities on Oct. 24, 1942.

Sculptor Heinz Warneke built the now-iconic shrine from a 13-ton block of Indiana Limestone. To this day, it is the most photographed landmark on campus.

Over the years, the Nittany Lion Shrine has suffered some accidental damage and been vandalized by rival fans on several occasions, including three incidents when it lost its right ear. The first of these incidents came when vandals broke the ear off, but Warneke quickly repaired it and had a new ear ready in 1979.

Sculptor Heinz Warneke works on the Nittany Lion Shrine prior to its dedication on Oct. 24, 1942. Photo: Penn State University Archives.

In 1966, six Syracuse fans made the trip from upstate New York to Happy Valley and covered the lion in orange paint, which was difficult to remove. Ever since this incident, ROTC students guard the shrine every year as part of the university’s Homecoming traditions.

The shrine remained virtually untouched until its only major renovation in 2013. After the landmark closed to the public in May of that year, a new stairway, paths, and lighting were added surrounding the original shrine as part of the Class of 2012’s gift. Stone from Mount Nitttany was used to create a new base for the statue.

Through it all, the Nittany Lion Shrine has survived and lasted as one of Penn State’s most iconic landmarks.

Mikey Mandarino is a staff writer for Onward State.
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