ST. LOUIS — Apotheosis of Saint Louis is its official name – sitting high on Art Hill and held up as the pinnacle of a medieval Christian monarch. At least to some.
"You can think of King Louis IX as the Chicago Cubs European kings. The man won nothing," said activist Umar Lee. "We've got a loser on a horse up here with a sword of hate."
For more than a century, the bronze statue of St. Louis' namesake – King Louis IX – has stood firm over Forest Park.
He was the only French king ever canonized as a saint for his benevolent treatment of the French people. But, like Christopher Columbus in Tower Grove Park and statues around the country, there is a call to reexamine his history.
"To many St. Louisans, of course, he's an innocent symbol of our city's name and its French patrimony," said architectural historian Michael Allen with Washington University.
"To many people of Jewish heritage he is known as someone who persecuted the Jewish people of France, confiscated and burned the Talmud, and 665 years before Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany he required Jewish people to wear an identification badge in public," said Allen.
Lee, along with restaurateur Ben Poremba, said add in King Louis' role in the Crusades and he should be disqualified from serving as a symbol of the city.
They've started a petition to have him taken down.
"We need a statue to commemorate someone who's heroic, who shares our modern values," said Lee.
The men said to truly take King Louis IX off his pedestal in St. Louis they can't stop with taking down his statue.
"First goal is getting rid of this statue right here," said Lee as he and Poremba stood in the shadow of Louis IX. "Then, we begin a grassroots effort to change the name of the City of St. Louis."
'Confluence' or 'Scott' for Dred Scott are two of the names Lee and Poremba say supporters have suggested as a new name for the city. And, if the idea seems too far fetched, they point to other cities that have been renamed in modern times like Saint Petersburg, Russia, which was previously Leningrad.
"Taking a statue like the statue of King Louis down to me would reflect a public consensus that he's no longer an appropriate public symbol," said Allen, who wrote about this question for the Riverfront Times. "But the renaming of St. Louis would would require a major public discussion."
"I'd never think it's crazy for us to say that we honor the Jewish citizens of St. Louis, the Muslim citizens of St. Louis," said Lee about their goals.
"People thought we're crazy when Umar, 20 years ago, was talking about the removal of Confederate monuments in Forest Park," said Poremba. "You know what? They're gone."
It's not hard to find opposition to the idea of removing the statue of King Louis IX. On their post about the petition, someone asked, "Where do we draw the line" when it comes to taking down statues of historical figures.
And a lot of people are fond of the more than 100-year-old statue in Forest Park.
Just last week, Archbishop Carlson gave a miniature version as a gift to the incoming St. Louis archbishop.
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