Since its construction in 1924, many have wondered at the meaning of the designs above the entrance to Roberts Hall. Neither the Methodist Protestant Herald nor early Hi-Po editions describe the intentions of the architect in showcasing these symbols. While they are interesting to consider, our interpretations are being made nearly a century after the construction of this building, and must necessarily be read with an attitude of curious skepticism.
In the shield at the top of the motif you can see a five-pointed fleur-de-lis, or giglio, a longstanding image of faith and purity often used to represent Holy Trinity. In the bottom right, a traditional Greek cross, with all sides of equal length, sits on its own shield.
Below this shield, another design is mirrored on either side of the window. Behind two overlapping shields lay a torch, battle-axe, sword, and horn, flanked by a winding ribbon. The face of the shields appear to show a Cross Pattee Quadrate. Pattee refers to the flared ends of the points of the cross, while quadrate describes the square overlaying the center of the cross to represent the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – spreading the gospel to the four corners of Earth.
Historical photographs show us that while the design has included the same elements since its creation, it has been refreshed over the years with a few coats of paint that didn’t always mimic the original. In the photos below from construction in 1924, you can see that the elements mentioned above – including shields, ribbons, and weapons – have been present since this building’s inception:
In this photo from the 1960’s, we can see that the designs have been painted to create deeper contrast and differentiate the design from the face of the building:
While the details may have changed, blue and gold have long been used to draw the eyes of passers-by. Rendered primarily in gold, symbolizing generosity and elevation of the mind, the blue accents denote a commitment to truth and loyalty.
In this color photo of Roberts’ Hall, taken in the 1980s, the details of the motif are clear. Running through the middle of each set of overlapping shields is a torch, representing life, zealousness, truth and intelligence. Furthermore, light is often used as a metaphor for the presence of a higher power, as in the High Point University motto: Nil Sin Nomine, “Nothing without divine light”.
Perpendicular to the torch, running horizontally, is a sheathed sword, used to represent the execution of justice. At the inner top corner on each side of the window, you are able to see a battle axe running behind the shields. This image is used to indicate responsibility and commitment to military duty. Opposite the swords, at the outer upper corner and continuing to the inner bottom corner, lies a horn. Horns have often been used in battle or other events of import, and represent strength and fortitude.
While not a part of this design, the lamp of learning is visible in many of the photos included here, sitting at the top of Roberts Hall tower. The lamp represents the light required to discern knowledge from information. According to Dean N. M. Harrison who designed the High Point College seal where the lamp was first used, “…it represents the hope that the college will never allow the lamp of learning to be extinguished.” That we can still see the lamp shining above our campus nearly a century after its construction is a testament to the founders of our university.
-blog post by Laura Silva, Archives
*Some of the information in this post was adapted from the American College of heraldry, http://www.americancollegeofheraldry.org/.