Center installs new mural of Copernicus


An 18-by-14-foot mural depicting the namesake of the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., recently was installed in the lobby of the 1,900-seat theater in the center.

The mural features a reproduction of the 1873 painting of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus by Jan Matejko. The original is owned by the Jagiellonian University and hangs in the Collegium Novum, an administrative building on the school’s campus in Krakow, Poland.

The painting was reproduced digitally on canvas with the university’s permission, and it hangs on a wall that overlooks the three-story atrium lobby of the theater, center director Gregg Kobelinski said. The theater, which was built in 1930 as the first movie theater in Chicago exclusively for "talkies," is now used predominantly for live shows.

Titled "A Conversation with God," the painting shows Copernicus looking upward to the night sky upon discovering that the earth is not the center of the universe and that it in fact revolves around the sun. He is seeking guidance on the matter from God because that belief was considered to be heresy.

Mathematician Galileo Galilei confirmed Copernicus’ findings about 70 years later, but church officials continued to reject the theory because it was believed that it contradicted the teachings of the Bible, where the earth is described as fixed and immovable.

The church’s investigation into Galileo, who was kept under house arrest for years due to his beliefs, was not formally closed until 350 years later by Pope John Paul II. In addition, the pope defended Copernicus’ theories during a visit to his native Poland in 1999.

Today Copernicus, who lived from 1473 to 1543, is considered the "father of modern astronomy." In the early 1970s, the Copernicus Foundation raised more than $300,000 to pay for a statue of Copernicus which was installed in front of the Adler Planetarium, and then in 1979 it purchased the Gateway Theater building, which was restored and expanded to include classrooms and a banquet hall.

An 18-foot mural depicting Nicolaus Copernicus has been installed at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.