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Government, Politics & Issues

Ceres Statue Returns To Grace The Missouri State Capitol

Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, was taken down for restoration for the first time in nearly 100 years.
Dana Millier | Missouri House of Representatives

Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, returned to Jefferson City on Friday. The 1,400-pound statue normally sits atop the Capitol dome but was taken down for restoration for the first time in almost 100 years. 

“Hopefully the public will get to see a part of history here,” said Gov. Mike Parson at the public unveiling of the statue. 

Bob Priddy, past president of the State Historical Society of Missouri, said this will likely be the only time visitors will see the statue up close before it’s hoisted 240 feet in the air. 

“She came down for the first time since she went up there in 1924, so only once every 94, 95 years does this goddess come to earth again,” Priddy said. “Who knows how long she’ll be up there once they put her up there again in a few days.”

The bronze and copper statue stands 10 feet, 6 inches tall. It was removed from the capitol dome in November 2018. 

Ceres was constructed in three pieces back in 1924 when there was no such thing as the 500-ton crane that’s being used today. Priddy said men tied ropes to a large elm tree on the Capitol lawn and a winch was placed on the top of the dome. 

“The winched her up there in three pieces, and then they welded her together up there,” he said. 

Ceres was taken to Chicago to be restored one year ago. An initial exam found that the statue had no structural problems and no corrosion, and that the quality of the bronze was very good. 

However, the statue did have some weather damage. 

“She’s on top of the building, and we’re on top of the bluff, and we’re exposed to a lot of elements,” said Dana Miller, chief clerk with the Missouri House of Representatives. 

In addition to being subjected to high winds from different directions — and of different speeds and temperatures — Ceres has been struck by lightning an estimated 300 times. 

Workers tied ropes to a large elm tree on the capitol lawn and a winch was placed on the top of the dome to get Ceres to the top of the capitol building in 1924.
Credit Missouri Office of Administration
Workers tied ropes to a large elm tree on the capitol lawn and a winch was placed on the top of the dome to get Ceres to the top of the capitol building in 1924.

“She was sort of the unofficial lightning rod,” Miller said. “She was grounded, but I don’t think the intent was for her to be the lightning rod.” 

Priddy said Ceres plays an important role because the previous Missouri State Capitol was struck by lightning on Feb. 5, 1911, and burned to the ground.

“Structurally, the building now is fireproof, and she’s the figure that takes the hits,” he said. 

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe at the public unveiling of the Ceres statue on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.
Credit Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe at the public unveiling of the Ceres statue on Friday.

Ceres underwent laser ablation, which is the process of removing substances from a solid surface with a laser. The total cost to remove the statue, transport it to Chicago, apply the laser treatment and put it back on the dome is estimated at around $400,000. 

Ceres will be available for public viewing in front of the statehouse until the morning of Monday, Dec. 9. It will go through some final preparations before it is placed back on top of the dome the week of Dec. 16.

Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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