By Nicholas Hairston
Hodges Chapel contains one of the most beautiful murals on Samford’s campus, but the history behind the art is almost as interesting as the mural itself.
Petru Botezatu, the man who painted the murals in Hodges Chapel, was born in Romania in 1940. While still a young man he found himself victim to the atrocities of the country’s communist regime.
“Not long before his high school graduation he became a victim of the newly installed communist regime in Romania” writes the Antiques, Collectables and Vintage Interchange website. “The young man was found guilty of political crimes and sentenced to spend 12 years of imprisonment in some of the most atrocious prisons of the epoch.”
Botezatu did not wish to stay in Communist Romania, and eventually he was able to escape to Austria. From there, he traveled to Canada and eventually came to the United States.
“In 1994 the artist [was] summoned from Canada to Birmingham, Ala, at Samford University, where he was commissioned to paint the dome and the 2 apses murals of their newly built, Renaissance style Chapel of The Divinity School” writes the Antiques, Collectables and Vintage Interchange website.
While painting the murals in Hodges, Botezatu was assisted by a member of the maintenance team. This man was significantly helpful to Botezatu and was rewarded for his help in a very special way.
“Over where the three wise men are, one of the wise men is painted differently than any other painting in there, he is an African American man.” said Aaron Farrow, who works for Samford Transportation Services and has frequently spoken to Botezatu.
The man was honored by being painted as one of the three wise men, and his likeness can be seen in Hodges Chapel to this day.
As of 2023, Petru Botezatu still lives in Birmingham.