Main Administration Building (University of Notre Dame)

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Main Administration Building
Golden Dome of the Main Administration Building
General information
Architectural style Collegiate Gothic
Town or city Notre Dame, Indiana
Country United States
Construction started May 17, 1879
Completed September 1, 1879
Client University of Notre Dame
Design and construction
Architect W.J. Edbrooke

The University of Notre Dame's Main Administration Building (known as the Main Building or the "Golden Dome") houses various administrative offices, including the Office of the President.[1] Atop of the building stands the Golden Dome, the most recognizable landmark of the University.


Construction of the first Main Building began in 1864 and was completed in 1865. The building stood for 14 years before being destroyed by fire in the spring of 1879. University founder Father Edward Sorin immediately planned for the rebuilding of the structure that had housed virtually the entire University. "By all means we must bring upon these new foundations the richest blessings of Heaven, that the grand edifice we contemplate erecting may remain for ages to come a monument to Catholicism, and a stronghold which no destructive element can ever shake on its basis or bring down again from its majestic stand. [2] The University took action by selecting a new design by Willoughby J. Edbrooke and commencing construction on the 17th of May. The current Main Building was completed before the fall semester of 1879. Fifty-six bricklayers and 4,350,000 bricks were necessary to complete it, and once finished it stood 187 feet tall.[3]

The Golden Dome that caps the Main Building was a gift from the sisters of adjacent Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame's sister school.[4] It was gilded in 1886 and crowned with a 19 feet tall statue of "Our Mother", the namesake of the university. The statue was designed and furnished by the girls of the nearby St. Mary's College, and it is a replica of the statue of Mary in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, erected by Pius IX.[5]

The Golden Dome.jpg


The building is the location of many administrative offices of the university including that of the President. The halls are decorated by portraits of the presidents of the university and the lower level hosts a gallery dedicated to the Laetare Medal awardees. The building also houses the Columbus Murals, a group of large paintings by Italian painter and Notre Dame professor Luigi Gregori, depicting the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. Gregori also painted with figures representing Religion, Philosophy, Science, History, Fame, Poetry and Music the interior of the Golden Dome, the University's most recognizable landmark.[6][7]

Interior of the Golden Dome

Steps Tradition and Superstition[edit]

In campus lore, if a student ascended the front steps of the Main Building before graduation, that student was doomed never to graduate. This legend stems from traditionalist smoking rituals. Students were not deemed worthy to climb the steps and smoke with their professors until they received their degrees and were educational equals.[8]


  1. ^ University of Notre Dame, Sights and Sounds: Main Building,
  2. ^ Circular Letter No. 96 from Fr. Sorin to the Holy Cross Community, May 23, 1879.
  3. ^ University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame Archives,
  4. ^ University of Notre Dame, Sights and Sounds: Golden Dome,
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Schlereth, Thomas, A Dome of Learning