FACES ON THE FAÇADE
Like all good
The designers used
symbolic carvings with even greater restraint – mainly Greek crosses at
the peaks of the four gables and a Latin cross on the gable above the west
entrance. Therefore, it is
surprising that somewhat unfamiliar symbols greet worshippers at either
side of the principal doors. We
find two regal faces sculpted in bold Romanesque style.
Who are these greeters, one male and one female, wearing crowns?
In her research for
the architecture and history video for Shadyside Church, Through
Circling Years, producer Claude LaVallée identified a quite plausible
answer: King Solomon and the
Queen of Sheba. Although these
are two prominent Old Testament figures, why do they occupy such a prime
location? The answer lies in
their significance and symbolic meaning as Biblical “types.”
An Old Testament type is a prophetic foreshadowing of a person or thing in the New Testament. Here, King Solomon is a type of Christ, the Queen of Sheba a type of the Church. Jesus reveals this relationship in Luke 11:31 (also in Matthew 12:42), “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” He is clearly the “one greater than Solomon.”
The relationship between Christ and the Church are prefigured in the relationship between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, in I Kings and Chronicles 9: Solomon demonstrated his great riches and wisdom to her. In response, she praised him and brought him her gifts.
15th Century Image Solomon & Queen
We may interpret
these symbols, then, as telling those who enter that Christ is central
here and the Church gathers to praise him and offer its gifts.
There are dozens of Old Testament types of Christ, and many types
of His Church. We may ask why
the architects chose Solomon and the Queen of Sheba – especially since
symbolism is scarce on the church’s façade.
Was this symbolism more familiar to a churchgoer in 1889?
Did it have special significance to a church leader?
Did the designer just appreciate it esthetically?
In any case, these faces are instructive for those who understand
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