Faces on the Facade

By Faith W.

There you are, walking into the school building that you walk in every day. Maybe you’re rushing in to make it to advisory before the bell rings. Maybe you’re zombie-walking, half in a sleep-deprived trance. Maybe you’re off in another world thinking about how rare the nice weather is. Have you ever looked at the building? Silly question. Of course, you have. But have you ever actually looked at it? 

The main entranceway into the building features a Collegiate Gothic style arch. The arch is topped with a series of grotesques, faces symbolizing evil on the exterior of buildings (usually with religious affiliation) with a purpose of contrasting holy imagery, along with the school crest and year it was founded. Those faces on the facade, a building’s front wall with an entrance, have stared at every student walking in Buffalo Seminary since the new building’s completion in 1909. 

Most grotesques are found on historical buildings, especially cathedrals. The faces outside the cathedral compared to the holy, saintly sculptures inside are supposed to signify the difference between what is considered good versus evil. The religious fixtures would supposedly protect the people entering the building from insidious forces. In American cities, they are mainly found in the Northeast and Midwest in buildings built between 1890 and 1930. The Great Depression in the 1930s caused contractors to stop adding the grotesques to residential buildings. In twelfth century Europe, they, along with gargoyles, were used to direct rainwater away from a building, much like gutters today. They come in all shapes and sizes, which have different meanings behind each one. 

The grotesques on SEM’s facade are of fairly normal human faces, and they still represent a portion of history that shaped our school, quite literally, since the building was being constructed during that era. From now on, look up. To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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