The Nittany Lion Shrine was officially dedicated as part of Penn State’s Homecoming festivities on October 24, 1942. The shrine was the class gift from the Class of 1940.
Sculptor Heinz Warneke built the now-iconic shrine from a 13-ton block of Indiana Limestone. To this day, it is the most photographed landmark on campus.
Over the years, the Nittany Lion Shrine has been vandalized by rival fans on numerous occasions, including three incidents when it lost its right ear. The first of these incidents came when vandals broke the ear off, but Warneke quickly repaired it and had a new ear ready in 1979.
In 1966, six Syracuse fans made the trip from upstate New York to Happy Valley and covered the lion in orange paint, which was difficult to remove. Ever since this incident, ROTC students guard the shrine every year as part of the university’s Homecoming traditions.
The shrine remained virtually untouched until its only major renovation in 2013. After the landmark closed to the public in May of that year, a new staircase, paths, and lighting were added surrounding the original shrine as part of the Class of 2012’s gift.
Through it all, the Nittany Lion Shrine has survived and lasted as one of Penn State’s most iconic landmarks.