The Masked Lady of Broadway

If you look above the doorway of the Trinity Building at 111 Broadway…

Trinity Building 01

You’ll see this row of faces staring down on you…

Trinity Building 05

Well, all except for one. Can anyone explain why this woman has her face covered in such an odd way?

Trinity Building 06

The Trinity Building, along with its sister building at 117, are two of my favorite buildings in lower Manhattan. Designed in “broken Gothic” architecture to match Trinity Church just south of it (you can see the Trinity graveyard in the first picture), the construction of the two buildings actually required the relocation of Thames Street, evident on a street map.

The building is covered in awesome Gothic detail, with lots of gargoyles and grotesques like these two…

Trinity Building 03

Closer view…

Trinity Building 02

…Another view…

Trinity Building 04

On either side of the door are these great gold dragons…

Trinity Building 07

But who is the lady with the masked face? Why is only her mouth exposed? Is she blind, or is it meant to signify something more insidious? And is the masonry just crumbling, or is the guy on the right missing an eye?

Trinity Building 06

-SCOUT

PS – Does the center “King” head remind anyone else of the weird king mascot Burger King has been using recently?

Trinity Building 08

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16 comments

  1. Lady Justice?

  2. Lady Justice would make some sense… “Justice is Blind” etc… Very interesting post!

  3. I was in Limburg, Germany in Limburg-on-den-Land and there was a house with 7 grotesque ugly and evil dwarf faces. I think it has something to do with legend, or culture, or something. But I can’t remember the history they told us. Email me if you want a picture.

  4. Those are some really bizarre faces – I couldn’t dig up anything about them either but I found out that the building’s west side tower was featured in Spider Man 2, with its green lantern top providing the setting for a fight scene.

  5. I don’t think it’s Lady Justice, because Justice is usually depicted blindfolded. This lady is not blindfolded, she is veiled.

  6. Given that the style of the heads is medieval, I cast my vote for the lady as Synagoga. Synagoga (i.e. Judaism) was often depicted as blindfolded in opposition to Ecclesia (Christianity) because Judaism had not opened its eyes to the new covenant of Jesus.

    Here’s an example I found on Google:
    http://www.aug.edu/augusta/iconography/spain2005/synagogaBurgos.jpg

  7. I have seen this on gothicconnect..c0m, some members like this gothic building too

  8. So, I was just at a lecture full of medievalist art historians, and I showed them this. They all said “Synagoga” without hesitation, before I even got to the comments.

    I don’t think this ends the mystery, though. Why would the architects want Synagoga on their building? Did they simply see the iconography and like it, not knowing its significance? Or did they think it meant something else? If so, what?

    It’s still mighty peculiar in this place, devoid of context!

  9. The stone man with the missing eye… I thought he was cock eyed.

  10. The woman is most likely Synagoga, yes. When Gothic architecture got started in the Middle Ages, the Church had an incredible amount of power and the Jews–historically lenders and tax collectors under the protection of a lord–served as an easy scapegoat of the harsh economic times. It was not uncommon for the fronts of churches to depict Christianity’s superiority over Judaism. Synagoga appears prominently on the front of Notre Dame cathedral as well as many other notable churches from that period. See below:

    http://www.snunit.k12.il/seder/anti/french/hate6fr.html

    http://books.google.com/books?id=DjM9bG-KTDoC&pg=PA111&lpg=PA111&dq=notre+dame+cathedral+blindfolded+woman&source=bl&ots=Bn3JvT3lQ9&sig=4n28B25nG0sZw1CpHlaRTiIoD2o&hl=en&ei=I0_rSfD8AoLEM8fazMwF&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPA111,M1

  11. I agree that the man is deformed. Its not that his eye is missing, its drooping down and looking up while the other looks forward. Though looking at it, it seems like he just smelled something gross. Try making that face. Raise one side of your lip, Raise and eyebrow while squinting the other eye and look in the mirror. Hes also flairing his nostrils. What he is smelling I have no idea though.

  12. there’s also a building on I believe 113th between broadway and amsterdam that has weird faces in it…ahh

  13. It could be a veil or a mask, back in the era the building was built women wore veils at church and funerals as well as weddings.
    As a note, typically, stone carvings were all carved in place by more than one carver. The architect might have specified and even drawn sketches of the faces he wanted, but that’s not as common as just letting the carvers do their own design based on a theme like “lion faces” “bearded men”
    There were probably 2 or 3 carvers carving these at the same time, each doing their own design, that is why the large variety.

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