A few of my friends have popped by today to wish you all a happy Halloween! They may look a little frightening, but I promise they’re harmless. They are the vault bosses who reside at Elgin Cathedral in Elgin, Scotland.
Never heard of a ‘vault boss’? Yeah, I hadn’t either until I met these guys.
Or at least I hadn’t heard the proper term for this type of stone carving. Wikipedia describes a ‘boss’ as follows: “Bosses can often be found in the ceilings of buildings, particularly at the keystones at the intersections of a rib vault. In Gothic architecture, such roof bosses (or ceiling bosses) are often intricately carved with foliage, heraldic devices, or other decorations. Many feature animals, birds, or human figures or faces, sometimes realistic, but often grotesque. The Green Man is a frequent subject.” If you have ever visited or seen a documentary on Rosslyn Chapel (you may know it from the Da Vinci Code), then you have probably seen a vault boss.
At Elgin Cathedral, the intricate, lifelike stone carvings were constructed by skilled masons under the tutelage of a master mason named Gregory. Though no one knows the specific story behind the various faces, Historic Environment Scotland says, “In the medieval period, it was believed that faces reflected peoples’ characters, and the passions – expressions of emotion – were thought to be inherently sinful. In the carvings there is a clear contrast between the serene faces of the dead and the Divine, and the more emotive heads of the living.”
So, ready to meet some of the Elgin boss crew? For each boss, I have included the caption from the signage that is on display at the cathedral.
I hope you enjoyed the vault bosses, and I hope you all have a spooktacular Halloween!