Rain, lightning and 125 years have taken such a toll on the giant bronze Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol dome that it will be removed - probably by helicopter - and restored, the Capitol architect says.

The operation will leave a large hole in the top of the lantern which supports the statue on top of the dome. The hole will be fitted with a temporary cover to keep out rain during the six-month $250,000 restoration project, according to architect George White.But White said the iron dome itself is in excellent condition and needs no major repairs.

The 14,985-pound figure, which rises 19 feet 6 inches from the top of the soaring dome, is a symbolic cast-bronze image of a female warrior draped in flowing robes and clasping a sheathed sword.

It has been a Capitol symbol since its head, the last of five sections, was hoisted aloft and bolted in place on Dec. 2, 1863.