The Archdiocese of St. Louis released a statement Sunday responding to calls to remove the Forest Park statue of King Louis IX, the namesake of the city of St. Louis.
“We should not seek to erase history,” the unsigned statement reads, “but recognize and learn from it, while working to create new opportunities for our brothers and sisters.”
Dozens of protesters and counterprotesters argued and prayed Saturday at the base of the statue, which has stood just outside the St. Louis Art Museum since 1906.
Those who want to see it removed cite the canonized monarch’s record of persecuting French Jews and leading two failed military attacks on Muslim nations as part of the Crusades.
A petition to remove the statue of the 13th-century French king and rename the city was posted on Change.org by activists Umar Lee and Moji Sidiqi and local restaurateur Ben Poremba.
“St. Louis has a large and vibrant Jewish and Muslim community, and it's an outright disrespect for those who are part of these faith communities to have to live in a city named after a man committed to the murder of their coreligionists,” the petition reads, in part.
It had garnered more than 850 signatures as of Sunday afternoon.
The archdiocese's statement does not directly refer to those complaints, but cites the “reforms that St. Louis implemented in French government focused on impartial justice, protecting the rights of his subjects, steep penalties for royal officials abusing power, and a series of initiatives to help the poor.”
The bronze statue is based on a plaster sculpture by Charles Henry Niehaus that sat at the site during the 1904 World’s Fair. Formally known as Apotheosis of Saint Louis, it has remained one of the iconic symbols of the city.
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