While somewhat nondescript on the outside, The St. Paul City Hall/Ramsey County Courthouse belies one of the most eccentric yet breathtaking pieces of art you may ever see.





While the City Hall/County Court House building’s Art Deco style is artistically anachronistic and visually appealing, it offers very little reason to stop and take a further look. But like many things in life, taking a closer look can t=yield amazing results.

As you enter and move past security, the first thing you notice is the Art-deco theme is continued in the building’s interior. Everything is encased in black marble with Bronze and Copper trim. As you enter into the lobby area, you first notice a glowing white flame.  As you make your approach, you see that this white illuminating object is actually a statue, a statue that seems to be getting bigger with your every step until you realize that the statue is in fact over three stories tall.


Despite the cliched prose, the statue really does take your breath away. Partly because it is white onyx (the world’s largest) but also because after you look at the figure for a moment, you realize it is in fact slowly rotating.  Each rotation takes about two and a half hours.


This picture gives you a sense of scale, The statue is over 36ft tall and the lobby has a copper roof that reflects light down upon the white onyx. It also makes the hall seem twice as high. 


I was shocked to find the statue is much less modern than I originally thought. The statue was built in 1936 by Swedish artist Carl Milles. It took twenty men to complete the work. The statue was originally called “God of Peace” but was changed to “Vision of peace” in the 1990’s


The statue is actually 98 individual Onyx Blocks that were cemented together. You can see the lines where the blocks were originally laid. 


While it appears they are kissing his feet, that was not Milles’ intent. They are actually five Chieftans who are smoking a peace pipe and are conjuring the god of peace. 

The significance of the god/vision of peace as a centerpiece for the lobby was the intent of city officials to honor their citizens who were killed in conflict during wars of the twentieth century. A contest was held and Carl Milles statue was selected, Some of the other entries included a doughboy and of course the eponymous Saint Paul.


A couple of the statues that were not selected. Saint Paul is on the right. 


The statue glows inside the lobby area. The walls are Blue marble columns (which really looks more Navy) the marble also includes the names of St. Paul’s military personnel who were killed in combat. 


There is a moving quality to the statue. And I don’t mean that as a pun because of the statue rotating. There really is a peaceful presence.


Milles had seen a native American peace ceremony in Oklahoma and based his work on the ceremony. Local tribes were also consulted and gave their blessing to his work. 

Given to the fact that the runners-up were statues of a soldier and Saint Paul himself, the choice of this statue may seem controversial r at least eccentric. But as you stand within this solemn and sacred place and see the glowing face of peace, the choice seems a brilliant one.  The Cityhall/courthouse complex is open weekdays and is of course, free to visit. 












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