By Jackie Crone, Executive Administrative Assistant, Office of Marketing Communications
A Nebraska connection, a love of religious art, a desire to
inspire, and eight tons of brick and mortar are behind the newest
addition to Marian University. While new construction on campus
has become commonplace, there is nothing common about the
installation of the 16’ by 16’ nativity scene brick mural which now
adorns the exterior of Alumni Hall. Visible at the Cold Spring Road
entrance, this sculpture boldly and proudly announces Marian
University’s Catholic and Franciscan identity.
In 1989, President Daniel J. Elsener met Images in Brick
founder Jay Tschetter through a mutual friend in his home state
of Nebraska where Tschetter was sculpting bricks in a garage.
Twenty years later, while planning the interior design of the
Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences, Marian University
commissioned Tschetter for the 14’ by 22’ St. Francis and the
Leper mural—and discussions about a future exterior brick
sculpture of the nativity scene began.
Designed by Sue Horn and sculpted by Sten Eisentrager and
Tschetter, the nativity scene brick mural is now a majestic
reality. This sculpture is 48 courses tall. A course is a straight
row of 16 foot-long bricks. That’s 768 bricks, which had to be
disassembled, one by one, and numbered for drying and firing
before being loaded onto special pallets, layered with protective
cardboard, and then placed into custom-built crates for the 700-
mile commute to Indianapolis.
In the cold and rain of early March, Tschetter reassembled the mural, brick by brick—precisely, yet
quickly—to stay ahead of the rapidly drying mortar. “This sculpture is 16 inches deep in places, so the
challenge is to tool the joints flush with the changing contours—a delicate and laborious task,” explained
the veteran mason, who admits being deeply affected by this awe-inspiring image, which can be
attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.
In 1223, a deacon named Francis got the idea of recreating the scene of Jesus’ birth to help reveal
the humble beginnings of Christ. With the permission of the sovereign pontiff, in a niche in a rock in
mountainous Greccio, Italy, he prepared a manger and brought in hay and animals for Midnight Mass
on Christmas Eve. And the rest is history, particularly the history behind Marian University founders, the
Sisters St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana.
The Holy Family serves as the perfect visual representation of the values that are the foundation of
Marian University, according to President Elsener who explained, “We are more like a family of community
learners, focused on faith and service, and Alumni Hall—our campus family room—is a great place for
reflection on how each of us can best answer God’s call.”
“We couldn’t help but be affected spiritually as we worked and as we noticed the impact it had on all
who saw it. It made us think every day,” said Tschetter, who is pleased with the depth, richness of color,
and outdoor location. “Being able to view this from a distance, with the right lighting, will provide a
dramatic and powerful perspective,” Tschetter explained.
The official unveiling and blessing took place on March 25, 2015, fittingly coinciding with the Feast of