History Book

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, May 27th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

Today, the unveiling of a famous Italian painting after its restoration.

Plus, on this Memorial Day, we note the dedication of a war monument 15 years ago.

EICHER: But first, a notable birth: 145 years ago. Here’s Paul Butler.

We begin today with May 29th, 1874, and the birth of English essayist, humorist, and poet Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

CHESTERTON: To be born into a family, is the most terrible experience of one’s life. It should be like climbing down a chimney into any house at random and trying to get as well as possible with the people inside.

That’s John Chalberg, a G.K. Chesterton re-enactor, paraphrasing a passage from a well known essay on the institution of the family.

CHESTERTON: To be born into a family is terribly romantic, far more romantic than falling in love…

Chesterton was a brilliant writer and thinker—likely the product of a diverse religious upbringing. He was born a unitarian, baptized an Anglican, and as a youth dabbled in the occult. But after marrying Frances Blogg, he became a devout believer—eventually converting to Catholicism 20 years later.

CHESTERTON: Ladies and gentlemen, whenever the church weds itself to the world, the church can be sure one day to be widowed by the world. I don’t want a church that moves with the world. I want a church that moves the world.

Chesterton wrote some 80 books, hundreds of poems and short stories, as well as more than 4-thousand essays. He influenced many other writers—including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, T.S. Elliot and countless Protestant and Catholic thinkers into the present day.

The large, absent-minded broadcaster, debater, and mystery writer died in 1936 at age 62.

Next, May 28th, 1999, in northern Italy.

AUDIO: [The Da Vinci Puzzle: Restoring The Last Supper — BBC News]

After 22 years of conservation work, the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie puts Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece “The Last Supper” back on display.


Art-restorer Pinin Barcilon Brambilla spent 50,000 of hours painstakingly dabbing the fresco with solvent and other cleaners. She slowly removed centuries of dirt, soot, and previous repairs to reveal what remained of the original painting.

Art critics like Britain’s Michael Daley argued that she had been too aggressive in her restoration, as only 20 percent of the original pigment was saved. But others praised her work as she uncovered many hidden and forgotten details.

Today the painting is protected from further deterioration by careful climate control, air filtering, and limiting visitors to groups of 25 people every 15 minutes.

And finally, May 29th, 2004. President George W. Bush presides over the National World War II Memorial dedication in Washington, D.C.

BUSH: Here in the company of the generation that won the war, I proudly accept the World War II Memorial on behalf of the people of the United States of America.

The monument sits on the National Mall between the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. It features 56 pillars representing the states and territories that sent soldiers to fight in Europe and the Pacific theater.

BUSH: Raising up this memorial took skill and vision and patience. Now the work is done, and it is a fitting tribute, open and expansive, like America. On this day, in their honor, we will raise the flag over an American monument, that will stand as long as America itself.

In addition to the pillars, victory arches, and large fountain, the memorial commemorates the more than 400,000 U.S. soldiers who died in the conflict. 4,000 gold stars fill the Freedom Wall—large letters spell out the message: “Here we mark the price of freedom.”

BUSH: At this place, at this memorial, we acknowledge a debt of long-standing to an entire generation of Americans: those who died; those who fought and worked and grieved and went on. They saved our country, and thereby saved the liberty of mankind. And now I ask every man and woman who saw and lived World War II—every member of that generation—to please rise as you are able, and receive the thanks of our great nation. May God bless you.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Washington DC, @djsinsear)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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