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Arts and Architecture - January 22, 2016

The statute that stands atop the Kansas Statehouse dome depicts a Kansa Indian brave named “Ad Astra.” (Flickr Photo by Mike Linksvayer)

Q: The statute that stands atop the Kansas Statehouse dome depicts a Kansa Indian brave named “Ad Astra.” Originally, the statue slated for the top of the dome was supposed to be one depicting the Roman goddess of grain and agriculture. What’s her name?


A: Ceres – {from which the word “cereal” was derived!}
 The Winslow Brothers, a metalworking company in Chicago, constructed this model of the Ceres design in 1901. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society /
According to the Kansas Historical Society, few things in state history have created such a long-standing controversy as "finishing" the Kansas Statehouse dome. In 1889, a commission was appointed to consider some of the finishing details for the capitol. A design competition was held in which sculptors competed for the honor of having their work selected to crown the dome. J.H. Mahoney of Indianapolis submitted the winning design: a bronze sculpture of Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain and agriculture.
By 1901, a proposal was finally submitted to cast the 16-foot statue. The estimated cost was nearly $7,000. Word soon circulated and many balked at the high price for what some considered a non-essential item. Others criticized the idea of honoring a Roman pagan goddess. Eventually, public outcry tabled the idea.   
In 1984, lawmakers appropriated funding for a yet-to-be determined statue but stipulated that it could not be a god or goddess. Late in 1988, a design competition was held. Artist Richard Bergen's bronze sculpture of a Kansa warrior succeeded in claiming the honor. The title of his statue, Ad Astra, is taken from the state motto, Ad Astra Per Aspera, which translates "to the stars through difficulties." The selection committee cited several reasons for choosing Ad Astra: the statue honored the state's American Indian heritage, created a unique and distinct profile and conveyed the ideas of aspiration and inspiration.  
Fun Factoids: The word cereal is derived from Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain and agriculture! A statue of Ceres can be found atop the capitol buildings in Missouri and Vermont and on top of the Chicago Board of Trade building.

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