Bristol's Minerva returns home

Published on Tuesday, 16 August 2022 15:06
Written by Dean Wright


BRISTOL – As final details are being completed at the new Bristol Arts and Innovation Magnet School, some residents would say the former Memorial Boulevard School’s restoration wouldn’t be complete without one last touch, the return of Minerva.

Minerva, the Roman goddess of arts, trade, strategy, wisdom and more, is a roughly 100-year-old statue, a replica of another such artwork standing in the Vatican. The statue at one point stood in the hallways of the Memorial Boulevard School when it was the Bristol High School. Legend has it that students would touch the statue in hopes of being blessed when faced with a difficult test or project. Supporters have now brought her back to be placed on a pedestal in front of the new BAIMS gymnasium, Friday.

According to Bob Adamczyk, Bristol Historical Society’s co-chair of collections and chair of the research committee, the statue was a gift from the first class that graduated in the Memorial Boulevard School building in 1922. She stayed in the school until the creation of Bristol Central High School. She remained in Bristol Central High School’s Latin room until a little over a year ago when the Bristol Historical Society took up funding to rehabilitate Minerva and some of her broken accessories.

Bristol Central High School Latin teacher, Kelly Monahan-Dinoia, has arguably the longest running relationship with the sculpture. She said the statue remained in the lobby of Bristol Central High School for a time before being moved to the school library. In 1998, renovations were being done to the building and the effigy was placed in storage. The teacher said the school’s principal at the time was looking out his window and saw some workers walking off with the sculpture who said they thought it was garbage. Shortly after, Minerva was placed in the Latin classroom.

“I loved having her in my classroom,” said Monahan-Dinoia, Minerva’s caretaker for many years. “My students would regularly go up to her and touch and hope that a little of her wisdom would rub off on them. It broke my heart to lose her. She’s where she belongs. She was with me for 24 years.”

It was tradition to dress Minerva at special times of year in the teacher’s classroom, among others.

“It’s consistent with keeping the history and stories of Bristol alive and vibrant,” said Bristol Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Dr. Michael Dietter, who also chaired the BAIMS build project. “She’s the Roman goddess of everything that is great is what I tell people.”

Interim Principal Lea McCabe said she was happy to see the building come back to life and see the return of its next generation of students. 

Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, former mayor of Bristol and longtime member of the Bristol Historical Society, was there while they were moving the statue.

“This was something that we’ve been working on for a couple of years,” she said. “As a historical society, it’s not just about preserving artifacts. It’s about preserving places and pieces of history. This boulevard school was a big piece of that, first as the Bristol High School, the boulevard school and now this new iteration. We felt strongly that Minerva was an important linkage.”

John Canning & Co. restored the statue.

Along with the return of Minerva, was a restored plaque dedicated to the memory of Captain Edmund Zbikowski. The monument reads “in Memory of Captain Edmund Zbikowski. Science teacher at the Freshman High School who died in the service of his country at Corregidor, April 2, 1942. He loved young people. He lived to serve them. He gave his all for them.” The piece formerly sat on the fourth floor of the building. Adamczyk noted Zbikowski was the first Bristol resident to die in World War II.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Tuesday, 16 August 2022 15:06. Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2022 15:08.