Liberal Arts Blog — The Chaotic Beauty of Monument Square, Concord, Massachusetts
Liberal Arts Blog — Friday is the Joy of Art, Architecture, Design, Film, and All Things Visual Day
Today’s Topic: The Chaotic Beauty of Monument Square, Concord, Massachusetts
What is your favorite town square in the world? or city center? why? I walk through Monument Square in Concord twice a day. I’ve lived here since 1992. But it was only yesterday that I was struck by the startling chaos of it all — a Pieta, an obelisk, an inn, a flag pole, a town hall, a Roman Catholic Church, a Christian Science meeting hall, a Masonic lodge, a Unitarian church, a cemetery on a little hill, a traffic circle. Wow! What a jumble! But was there an order beneath the apparent chaos? Was their proportionality in that order? Is the beauty related to the balance of elements in an organic, dynamic structure? Today a few more thoughts and three pictures. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE CENTRALITY OF THE DEAD AND THE DUTY TO HONOR THE DEAD
1. The center of the square is a mostly grass covered rectangle with three principal monuments and a motley collection of trees — from towering sycamore maples to a sweet gum and two hawthorns.
2. At the center is an obelisk honoring those fallen in the Civil War.
3. On the eastern end, a huge boulder in memory of those soldiers who died in the First World War. Just beyond the eastern end is a small traffic circle which includes a tall flag pole and a blue spruce that is lit up at Xmas time.
NB: At the western end is a small monument to those who died in the Spanish American War.
THE PIETA IN MONUMENT SQUARE — the replica is made from Carrera marble from the same quarry used by Michelangelo
1. To me the beauty of the anomalous juxtaposition of this replica with the three war memorials of the central rectangle is that together they raise the question: what is worth dying for?
2. What is worth killing for?
3. Should not these questions be the backbone of the social studies curriculum K-12? If not what?
NB: Let’s not sweep the hard questions, the most important questions under the rug. Let’s put them front and center. Continuity is key to depth of thought. Depth of thought is critical to making the really big tough decisions in life. Like whether to fight in a war — say like the Mexican War of 1846–1848. Which leads to the marker on the square marking the location of the jail where Henry David Thoreau spent the night for refusing to pay taxes that would go the war effort. His protest led to one of the most influential essays ever written — “On Civil Disobedience” which was an inspiration to the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
THE BEAUTY OF THE TRINITY — the inn, the churches, the town hall
1. Some town squares or city squares are all about government, or all about commerce, or all about religion.
2. Tiny Monument Square has all three — a charming clapboard inn, a brick town hall, and three very different ecclesiastical institutions (Catholic, Unitarian, Christian Science).
3. When I think of other cities or towns I have known and loved, four come immediately to mind — Washington DC (the Mall), Paris (the central axis), and Savannah, Georgia (with a mind-blowing 22 central squares).
NB: Please, truly, I am dying to hear from you with pictures and thoughts on your favorite town or city squares. Brussels? Venice? Prague? Brasov? Asia? Africa? Latin America? Australia?
PS: If you have not yet come to visit, please do.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
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#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
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