A literary giant in life, the German poet and philosopher Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759 - 1805), stands as a bronze giant near the entrance to St. Paul's Como Park. Commissioned by a group of prominent German-Americans as a gift to the city of St. Paul, the sculpture immediately became a celebrated landmark at its dedication on July 7, 1907 when 5,000 people turned out to honor the writer and his legacy as an Enlightenment champion of freedom and democracy.
Recently restored, the sculpture will be re-dedicated at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 11. The Minnesota Chorale will perform "Ode to Joy," from Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the lyrics of which come from Schiller's 1785 poem "Ode an die Freude" (Ode to Joy). Officials from the city, park, arts and University of Minnesota will speak along with a counsular representative and students. The ceremony will occur at the Schiller sculpture site near the Como Park gateway at Lexington and Eastbrook Drive.
After a century in Minnesota's harsh weather, the sculpture was streaked with "green and blue copper carbonate corrosion and black, crusty sulfur-based deposits," said Public Art Saint Paul, a non-profit organization that oversaw the sculpture's restoration in 2012. Its bronze surface was pitted, the base unstable and the sculpture covered with graffiti and carvings. Conservator Kristin Cheronis and a team from Public Art Saint Paul cleaned and repaired the sculpture and its Vermont-granite pedestal.
A handsome figure, Schiller is dressed in the manner of 18th century intellectuals in a long frock coat over a shirt, vest and knee breeches above long stockings and buckled shoes. A sheaf of papers in his left hand signals his profession while his animated, confident stride telegraphs the vigor of his ideas and their inspiration to his countrymen.