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What Is the Touchdown Jesus (and Where Can You See It?)

If you’re a football fan, there’s a chance you’ve prayed for a touchdown a time or two. Between the John 3:16 signs in the crowd and players pointing to the sky after a big play, religion has always had an exciting role in sports. However, Touchdown Jesus is the perfect combination of sports and religion. 

So what is this Touchdown Jesus that we’re referring to, and where can you see it? Keep reading and find out! Let’s get started!

What Is Touchdown Jesus?

People officially know Touchdown Jesus as “The Word of Life.” It’s a mural decorating the side of Theodore Hesburgh Library on the University of Notre Dame campus, one of the nation’s largest college libraries.

The artist designed the mural to unify the divine and academics. The mural shows Christ surrounded by some of the greatest theologians, doctors, and teachers to walk the earth. You’ll find Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, and many more.

The mural was a donation by Mr. and Mrs. Howard Phalin in 1963. The cost for the mural was $200,000, and Millard Sheets painted it. However, its unique placement quickly earned it the nickname Touchdown Jesus.

Where Is Touchdown Jesus?

Touchdown Jesus adorns the south panel of the University of Notre Dame’s 14-story Theodore Hesburgh Library. The University of Notre Dame is in South Bend, Indiana. The campus sits south of the Indiana-Michigan border, 90 miles east of Chicago, Illinois. 

Football and helmet on football field
While visiting Notre Dame campus make sure to visit the Touchdown Jesus mural.

How Tall Is the Touchdown Jesus Mural?

The Word of Life stands an impressive 132 feet high. In addition to its remarkable height, the mural is also 65 feet wide. At 134 feet by 68 feet, it’s 40 feet longer and 15 feet wider than a professional basketball court.

This massive mural contains 81 types of stones from 16 countries. It’s the perfect reminder to Christians that the Christ depicted in the mural came for all of humanity and not just a single country, state, or city. The university is also a top international school and draws a vast global population of scholars to further their education.

History of the Touchdown Jesus

During the early part of the construction of the Memorial Library, now the Theodore Hesburgh Library, officials decided they needed to decorate the massive space on the side of the library. If not, the building would resemble one of the many gigantic silos decorating the Indiana countryside.

The library opened in 1963 and was mural-less. Many credit Theodore Hesburgh for suggesting that Millard Sheets, the mural’s artist, cover the wall with a mixture of saints and scholars. Work began in the spring of 1964, and a ceremony dedicating the mural took place on May 7, 1964.

Call it a coincidence or divine blessing, but the University of Notre Dame football team won the national championship during the 1964 season following the mural’s dedication. They also won the championship in 1966, 1973, 1977, and 1988. They’ve become one of the most successful college football programs in history.

Pro Tip: Never miss a football game by using these tips on How to Stream College Football in Your RV Camper.

View of football field
Head inside Notre Dame Stadium for the best view of the Touchdown Jesus.

Where Is the Touchdown Jesus Statue Visible?

Touchdown Jesus is easily visible from several spots on the University of Notre Dame campus. However, the most popular viewing location is inside Notre Dame Stadium. The mural peeks out over the northern end zone of the stadium.

The statue was visible to almost everyone sitting in the southern portion of the stadium. However, a mid-1990s renovation project makes it only visible to those sitting at higher levels in the stadium. 

How Did the Mural Become Known as Touchdown Jesus?

The Word of Life quickly adopted the nickname Touchdown Jesus due to its unique location and alignment with Notre Dame Stadium’s northern end zone. Football games at the University of Notre Dame have always been one of the most exciting events on many Saturdays in the fall, and many games premiere on national TV.

The mural’s unique design and proximity to the stadium make it an easy shot for television cameras on the press box to capture during football games. The raised hands of Jesus anointing those around him are similar to what a referee would do when a team scores a touchdown. 

It didn’t take long for football fans and television broadcasters to make the connection between the two. Almost instantly, The Word of Life mural became Touchdown Jesus.

Pro Tip: Can’t visit Touchdown Jesus? Find Jesus instead in The Smallest Church in the USA.

Is Touchdown Jesus Worth Visiting?

The Word of Life mural is an incredible artwork worth seeing for yourself. If you’re planning to visit the University of Notre Dame campus, you should tour the campus and make Touchdown Jesus one of your stops. Take the time to notice the intricate details that Millard Sheets included in the mural and how they blend into one cohesive unit.

If you’ve visited or will visit Touchdown Jesus, snap a picture and share it with us! We’d love to see it!

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