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Boston doesn't have nearly enough garlanded ox skulls adorning its buildings

Two bucrania above School Street

Walk up School Street from the Downtown Crossing Walgreens and look up at the back of the building at the corner of Province Street, and you'll see these two ox skulls staring back at you.

These bucrania (if there were just one, it would be a bucranium) date to the 1920s, when the building (where the Borders used to be) went up as the headquarters of the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank.

They harken to the days when Boston architects, such as Parker, Thomas & Rice, who designed the bank building, loved embedding Roman, Greek and even the odd Babylonian references in their work (all the buildings with a caduceus? They weren't hospitals, but home to merchants, because Mercury, the god of commerce, had one).

Bucrania, basically ox skulls with garlands, are an old Roman symbol that would decorate temples - at which an ox or two were commonly sacrificed.

Over the decades, the School Street ox skulls have served as the backdrop for other events. Take, for example, this photo of Louise Day Hicks campaigning for mayor on School Street in 1967 (she lost to Kevin White) - look just up above the clock:

Louise Day Hicks in front of a pair of ox skulls

You can also find some bucrania carved into a frieze along the exterior of the Municipal Building in Hyde Park's Logan Square.

Hicks/skulls photo from the BPL's Brearly Collection. Posted under this Creative Commons license.



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I love this kind of thing. If you look for them, Boston has quite a collection of lions, Green Men, gargoyles and other building adornments hiding in plain sight.

Voting closed 26

Did somebody mention lions?

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I briefly worked in the John McCormack Post Office and Courthouse Building, and was enamored of all of the Greek mythology references on the exterior - including gargoyles and sheaves of wheat, and caduceus, because Hermes was the messenger god!

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Who is the sun god, he's a fun god, ra, ra, ra!

Sorry, had to get that out.

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I remember when we had those.

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apparently because the architects thought of the library as a temple of knowledge. :-)

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I hoped someone would mention those!

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Love to see Louise Day, we knew where she stood.

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Are you saying that everybody knew Louise Hicks was a garlanded, skeletal, sacrificial bovine?

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As an old timer, I remember one day that was so windy, several people swore they saw Louise Day Hicks's hair move.

Voting closed 11

I noticed interesting colored icons on the building directly across from 'The Corner' store in Downtown crossing. This post had me looking up on my movie day. This was the first time I noticed painted plaques on top of a downtown building.

Voting closed 2