While visiting my friend Gill Shaw in Gloucester, England, she suggested we take a coach to Oxford for the day. A fan of three British televisions shows filmed in Oxford — Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis and currently Endeavour — I had long wanted to see this city of universities.
There is a week’s worth of attractions to see in Oxford, but with only one day to explore, we decided no agenda was necessary; we were just going to enjoy our day. After checking out the visitor’s center, we decided to take a double-decker bus tour of the city. It was on the bus I happened to look up and find the most amazing faces looking down at me.
All over Oxford’s buildings are grotesques in the shapes of faces, animals and mythological characters like dragons.
During the Renaissance, grotesques as well as open-mouthed gargoyles (which directed rainwater away from buildings) became commonplace, especially on the outside of cathedrals. At the time, the church was trying to convert the largely pagan masses to Christianity. According to This Old House, the figures, which were in stark contrast to the saintly sculptures that also decorated buildings, demonstrated to an illiterate congregation the difference between good and evil.
I found them delightful and entertaining as Gill and I explored on the tour bus and later on foot.