Nittany Lion Shrine

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Nittany Lion Shrine
Nittany Lion Shrine (2).JPG
The Lion Shrine after renovation, March 2014
ArtistHeinz Warneke
YearOctober 24, 1942 (1942-10-24)
LocationUniversity Park
OwnerThe Pennsylvania State University
AccessionOctober 24, 1942

The Nittany Lion Shrine is a large mountain lion sculpture carved by Heinz Warneke located at the University Park campus of the Pennsylvania State University, United States.


Lion Shrine s.JPG

The Nittany Lion Shrine at Pennsylvania State University was dedicated on October 24, 1942 during Homecoming. Animalier Heinz Warneke and stonecutter Joseph Garatti created it from a 13-ton block of Indiana Limestone. The shrine was chosen from six models submitted by Warneke.

The shrine is a gift of the class of 1940 and rests in a natural setting of trees near Recreation Building.[1]

In 2013 the shrine was renovated to improve the lighting, add a sidewalk, and add large decorative stones. The improvement was the gift by the Penn State's class of 2012.[2]


In 1966 Sue Paterno (wife of football coach Joe Paterno), and a friend secretly splashed water-soluble orange paint on the Nittany Lion statue the week of the Syracuse game. Later that week Syracuse fans covered the statue in oil-based paint, which was tougher to remove. Since then, students guard the Lion Shrine every homecoming.[3]

Actually, six Syracuse University students painted the Nittany Lion on Wednesday night, Nov. 2, 1966. The six students had driven from Syracuse to State College that evening with an old, air-loaded fire extinguisher filled with orange paint. Arriving on the Penn State campus, they found the Nittany Lion statue flood lit, deserted and completely clean. Within minutes they had painted the lion, jumped back in their car and driven away from campus, undetected.

On the way out of town they spotted a sign for Beaver Stadium, and turned into the parking lot there, prepared to paint the goal posts orange as well. This proved their undoing when the police at the Stadium (guarding the ABC Television equipment for the Saturday game broadcast) switched on the Stadium lights and raced towards the end zone where the students were. As the students fled, one of them became tangled climbing over the 5-foot high chain-link fence surrounding the field. He was taken into custody by the police, and released the following morning.

The students were subsequently brought before the SU Student Court, but the case was dismissed as a simple “college prank”.

In addition, the student paper, The Daily Orange, published an editorial lauding the students and helped organize a fund of student donations to pay for the sandblasting required to remove the paint. The clean up was nearly complete by game-time on Nov. 5th.

This prank re-ignited a tradition that had become dormant among eastern football schools’ rivalries. Attempts at similar pranks were then repeated many times in subsequent years. [4]

In another football weekend incident in 1978, the Lion Shrine was vandalized when a blunt object was used to break off the statue's right ear. The original sculptor – Heinz Warneke – was alive at the time and, with some difficulty, was able to match the stone and repair the damaged ear. This incident led to the site being guarded during home football games.[5] The right ear was vandalized again in 1997. In 2003 and 2018, the ear was broken off again, but it is unsure whether or not it was due to vandalism.[6]


Nittany Lion Shrine replicas[edit]

Almost every one of the Pennsylvania State University Commonwealth campuses has a replica of the Nittany Lion Shrine. This gallery contains pictures from several campuses throughout Pennsylvania.


  1. ^ Reed, Tom (October 25, 2007). "IF U. GO: Penn State". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Dispatch Publishing.
  2. ^ "Renovated Nittany Lion Shrine once again open for visitors". September 5, 2013. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  3. ^ Viera, Mark (September 11, 2008). "The Past for Syracuse and Penn State Is Now Present". New York Times.
  4. ^ Syracuse University Daily Orange/ vol 64, No. 39, Nov. 14, 1966, page 1, page 2-Editorial
  5. ^ "Nittany Lion Shrine suffers damage to limestone ear". Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  6. ^ "Damaged Ear of Penn State Nittany Lion Shrine Repaired". 28 February 2018.