Greek carvings bear historical significance



Replicas of the Elgin Marbles sit above the atrium at the high school. The carvings were initially at the old Lincoln School but were then restored and brought to the high school.

Nick Cloney, Staff Writer

During 180 days of the school year, hundreds of students stream through the front doors of the high school and pass through the atrium on their way to class. But how many of them are aware that, hanging just above their heads, is a piece of history that is one of only three of its kind in the entire world?

The Elgin Marble carvings that hang above the entrance to the school are detailed copies of the originals from the Parthenon, the famous temple in Athens, Greece. According to Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason, they are one of only three detailed copies in the world. The original carvings were seen as representations of Greek culture and Western civilization, and although the high school’s version may be unfamiliar to many students, that does not lessen their historical significance.

According to Mason, it was almost a matter of chance that the carvings were ever even found in the old Lincoln school on Route 9.

“That building was going to be demolished, and just before that, somebody looked around in the school to see if there was anything worth salvaging. And he saw the panels and thought, ‘This is crazy, we need to save these,’” Mason said.

Former Headmaster Robert Weintraub explained how the carvings have been through some rough patches over their long history in Brookline.

“They had the Elgin Marbles [in the old Lincoln school], but they had been pretty much abandoned. They were filthy and moldy, but someone had the idea to clean them up and bring them here to represent the cultural, academic, and intellectual ideals of the school,” Weintraub said.

Mason explain that the carvings that the high school has might be even more detailed than the rough originals. Due to the dangers of transport in the early 1900s, the original marbles were somewhat damaged.

The high school’s atrium boasts a collection of artwork and architecture, including the Terracotta Warriors and less prominent copy of the Elgin Marble carvings from the Parthenon in Greece.

Librarian Ann Collins feels that the carvings are not noticed very much even just as an architectural feature.

“I wonder how many people look up and actually notice them. I know they’re there because when you look out the library windows, they’re easily visible, but when you come in, your focus is more drawn to the Terracotta soldiers because they’re closer to eye level,” Collins said.

According to Collins, implementing the marbles into the curriculum of the school would help raise their visibility in the community.

“I think it would be interesting to put them on some kind of freshman scavenger hunt, like the ones that they do to learn where things are in the building.  That would definitely help raise their profile,” Collins said.

Weintraub agrees that the marbles were brought in to show the culture of Brookline’s academic institutions, but the message is often lost because of a lack of information.

“We hung them so when you walked in, you were coming into our own version of the Parthenon,” Weintraub said. “And people might not really get that – I used to say that we should teach the freshmen about what they represent when they get here.”