The great statue of Christ-esque Christ was erected on the site of a Victorian prison in 1930, by the artist John R. Storrs, and the monument became known as “The Devil’s Gate.”
The monument was also the home of a prominent local preacher, John Dior, who was known to have made a living by preaching in the prison.
But the statue, which is estimated to be around 8 feet tall, has long been the object of a controversy, with critics alleging that its likeness is of a white man, while others say that it is of an Indian man, a result of the statue’s design.
In 2015, it was restored to life by a team of volunteers from the British National Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts, with the help of local artist Christian Dior.
The restoration team is now looking for more help, and hopes to reopen the statue by the end of 2018.
The story of how the statue got to be a symbol of the state of Alabama is one that has attracted national attention.
The controversy dates back to 1927, when the monument was built in a churchyard.
On May 31, 1927, Alabama governor William F. Henry signed into law the first bill in Alabama’s history to allow the erection of monuments to “persons of foreign extraction,” or the infamous “The Alien and Sedition Act,” which banned any form of speech or expression deemed to be “offensive, seditious, or subversive.”
The bill had been passed by a vote of 65-0 in the Alabama Legislature.
“I think that is the most important issue that comes out of this act, and that is that we cannot be a state without a state history,” Alabama Senator Mary Lou Engler told reporters after the bill was passed.
But as the Alabama Historical Society (AHS) notes, the act was repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1923.
The AHS has worked to restore the statue since then, with funding coming from the Alabama State Historical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and several private foundations.
Today, the AHS is proud to announce that it will be offering the “The Strange Case of the Strange Statue” exhibition.
“The museum has the honor of hosting the Strange Case, and it is an incredibly important artifact for the history of the South and Alabama,” the AHs says in a press release.
“This exhibit showcases the work of artists from the U of A, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, and The Alabama Historical and Cultural Heritage Foundation, and is the culmination of years of collaboration.”
This exhibit will feature a series of “novellas, sketches, and photographs from artists around the world, to explain the history behind this sculpture,” the museum notes.
“From the earliest colonial days to the present, the statue has been a symbol for Alabama and the South.”
The Strange Case is located at the Alabama History Museum and Museum of American History.
It is open from April to November, and includes a new exhibit on “The Art of Alabama,” which will open in 2019.