Monday, August 10, 2009

Medieval Fonts: Memorial Chapel

Memorial Chapel at Wesleyan University's campus was built in 1868 to commemorate Wesleyan students who died in the Civil War. It is an intricate Gothic Revival building with a date stone carved on the northeast corner, reading "MEMORIAL CHAPEL" on the east face and "1868" on the north face. Despite the building's architectural style, the font is not particularly medievalizing. The letters are protruding, round, blocky forms without serifs or ornament.

The stone mason has carved the negative space around each letter, producing a sharp image with deep shadows. Many mid-19th century tombstones and public monuments use this font, which is noticeably different from the recessed Roman fonts in more Classical buildings. Roman fonts would be sharply inscribed, typically on harder stone like marble or white limestone. The blocky letters we find at Memorial Chapel were commonly carved on the soft brown limestone, a prevalent material. The stone was quarried just a mile away at Portland Brownstone Quarries that, during this period, were deeded to the University. These famous quarries on the Connecticut River provided the raw material for the "brownstone" houses in New York City.
Location: 41°33'20.62" N, 72°39'21.43" W
221 High Street, Middletown, CT 06457

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States