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Analyzing Hermann
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It takes a hydraulic lift to get this close to Hermann (MPR Photo/Mark Steil)
The initial diagnosis for "Hermann the German" is -- better than expected. Hermann is a century old statue in New Ulm. It depicts an ancient german warrior but it needs repair. A metal expert and a sculptor are studying Hermann's copper skin and steel frame. So far they're pleased with what they're finding.

New Ulm, Minn. — The statue rests upright on a temporary platfrom on a hill overlooking New Ulm. It's huge: 32 feet from the heels of its boots to the tip of the outstreched sword. This hill has been Hermann's home since 1897. Usually the statue stands on a nearby ornate dome. But in February it was lowered to the ground for repairs. Metal expert Arnie Lillo is one of the workers examining the city's most famous landmark.

"It feels good, it's an honor," says Lillo. "Been looking forward to this for quite a while and it's finally happening."

The statue is built of sculpted copper sheets attached to a steel frame. It's the same technique used to build the Statue of Liberty. Liberty is the tallest statue of this type, Hermann is second.

It's size makes the New Ulm statue an easy target. Over the years, many people have been unable to resist. Hermann's copper skin is punctured by more than one hundred shot and bullet holes. City officials knew about them since the damage could be seen from the ground.

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Image Hermann's inner frame

But before the statue was taken down, they had no idea about Hermann's interior. Structurally, it's the most important part of the monument, because its steel frame holds the statue together. With Hermann on the ground, Lillo has been able to examine the frame.

"It's not as bad as I thought it would be," says Lillo. " I was thinking there would be more rusted out areas, but that's not the case. There is some rust in the there but it's not as bad as what I actually thought it would be."

Lillo took pictures of the interior. They show two steel pipes supporting most of Hermann's weight. Branching off from the pipes are dozens of small bars. The statue's copper skin is riveted to the bars. In the picture outside light leaks in through holes in Hermann's skin.

Lillo will examine every inch of the 30 foot tall statue by using a hydraulic lift. The lift takes him quickly to the top of the statue. He describes what he sees.

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Image Sculptor David Hyduke (left) and metal expert Arnie Lillo

"We're up at the head area right now looking at his face," says Lillo. "Look at the wing that's missing and the wreath that's missing from the side of his helmet. And if you notice the spots of caulking -- that's actually bullet holes that have been sealed up."

Other obvious damage includes the sword bearing arm. It broke at the shoulder during an ice storm and was cobbled back on. Lillo says the close up view makes him appreciate the skill of the sculptors. They hammered sheets of copper into Hermann the German.

"Look at the detail around the eyebrows, the eyes, the beard, the nose, the cheekbones," he says. "Look at his arms, you can actually see the blood veins. So there was some real craftmanship back in them days."

The statue commemorates a first century German leader who lead a patchwork of tribes to victory over the romans. It's patterned after a similar statue in Detmold, Germany. Lillo and partner David Hyduke, a sculptor, will come up with a detailed list of what needs repair. Then the city plans to take bids on the work. It's hoped the repairs will be finished in time for New Ulm's 150th anniversary next year.

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