Chapter 7 Section A
The Great Temple At Salt Lake City-Exterior
Before us stands the completed structure, the visible result of four decades of devoted toil,-a period marked in the beginning by poverty and penury followed by relative prosperity and plenty. The impression produced by a first view of the exterior is that of massiveness coupled with a sense of assured stability. Closer examination and more intimate acquaintance serve to intensify this early impression, while revealing numerous details of uniqueness in plan and of excellence in construction. As to architectural design the Temple belongs to a class of its own. Originality rather than novelty characterizes every prominent feature. And yet there is nothing apparent that speaks of strained effect nor of conscious effort for departure from more conventional lines. The Temple is no oddity in architecture; on the contrary it is strictly in place both as to material environment and spiritual atmosphere.
The building is of composite style, presenting features of both the Gothic and the Roman. By architects of experience it has been described as a modification of the Round Gothic, while others have called it Romanesque, in that it follows in part the castellated style so highly developed in England. But, even if this description be true as to the exterior, it is wholly inapplicable within. There are no high-vaulted Gothic ceilings, nor massive beams after the style Romanesque; on the contrary the interior partakes rather of the nature of Renaissance design.
The Temple was constructed for specific use; it was intended for service widely different from that of cathedral, tabernacle, mosque, or synagogue; and the building was planned and patterned to suit its distinctive purpose. Such was and is the reason for its being, the explanation of its design, both vindication and justification of its plan.
As has been shown, the plans of the building were made known, and a fairly detailed description thereof was published in 1854. A careful examination of the structure as it now appears shows that in every essential particular the original plan of the exterior has been followed almost to exactness. Details of spires, turrets, and finials, had not been determined when the design was first announced; and in these as in certain other particulars the original plan has been added to; but no essential alteration has been introduced.
As it stands, the building is one hundred eighty-six feet six inches long, and one hundred eighteen feet six inches wide including ground-level extensions of the corner towers, or ninety-nine feet wide in the main body. The side walls are one hundred sixty-seven feet six inches high; the west center tower has a height of two hundred and four feet, and the corresponding tower at the east rises six feet higher. The entire area covered by the building is twenty-one thousand eight hundred and fifty square feet.
The walls are set upon a massive footing, which extends sixteen feet below ground, is sixteen feet wide at the base, and narrows to nine feet at the top. From the ground-level to the globes surmounting the spires the walls are of granite, every block accurately cut as to dimension and pattern, and fitted with equal nicety outside and inside. The windows, both arched and oval, all deeply set in their granite recesses, are framed with oolite. Throughout the first story the walls are eight feet thick; in the upper structure the thickness is reduced by stages to a minimum of six feet. The buttresses are uniformly one foot thicker than the walls proper.
The building consists of three towers at each end-east and west, and between these extends the main body, suggesting, to the observer at a distance, a vast intermediate nave. In ground-plan the Temple is strikingly symmetrical, each of the central axes being an axis of symmetry. The westerly half is a repetition of the easterly, and the southerly half duplicates the northerly. Lines running north and south through the centre of the three towers at either end are also lines of symmetry, dividing the towers into corresponding parts.
Repetition of parts appears also in vertical section. Thus, above the first belt or string course, that is to say, immediately above the basement or first floor, is the second story, indicated without by a series of high arched windows between the buttresses; above these is a series of elliptical or oval windows. The belt course immediately above these oval openings marks the centre of construction as seen in the vertical section of the main body. The upper half, up to the level of the top belt-course, is in general a repetition of the lower. The roof has so little pitch as to be practically flat, there being a rise of but eight feet from edge to centre. Between the end towers, that is to say in the main body of the building, the walls carry nine buttresses or pilasters on both north and south sides. Each of these pilasters rises above the parapets and battlement walls, and is capped by a granite block three and a half feet square at its base and two and a half feet high. Of these pilaster caps, four on either wall are open and constitute the tops of ventilator shafts which extend to the basement.
Above the roof level rise the upper sections of the towers with their spires and finials. Octagonal turrets occupy the corners of the towers, and each turret is surmounted by a pyramidal monolith, six feet high and three feet in diameter at the base; the apex of this pyramid is cut to represent an acanthus cluster. Each of the six towers is surmounted by a pyramidal spire, which terminates in a spherical capstone. The cut blocks forming the spires are two feet in thickness; the capstones of the four corner towers are three feet in diameter, while those of the two center towers measure eight inches more.
The spherical termination of the east center tower, which is the highest stone in the building, and therefore the capstone proper, supports a statue, the crown of which marks the point of greatest altitude in the entire structure. The figure, which stands twelve and a half feet high, is that of a man in the character of a herald or messenger, blowing a trumpet. In pose and proportion the figure is graceful and gentle, yet virile and strong; the drapings are simple, and leave only feet, arms, neck, and head bare. Around the head is a slender circlet supporting high-power incandescent lamps. The statue is of hammered copper thickly overlaid with gold-leaf. It is the work of C. E. Dallin, Utah-born, and now of more than national fame as a sculptor. The figure is intended to represent Moroni, the Nephite prophet, who died about 421 A.D., and who, as a resurrected being, came in 1823 to the boy-prophet Joseph Smith, and delivered to him the message of the restored Gospel, in accordance with the prediction of the ancient Seer:
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water.”
As has been described in connection with the ceremonies of the capstone-laying, April 6, 1892, the stone upon which rests the statue is one of the record stones of the Temple. Another record stone is to be noted. This lies at the south-east corner of the building immediately beneath the first layer of granite. It is a quartzite block three feet in length and twenty inches in both width and depth. A cavity one square foot in cross-section holds printed books, periodicals, and manuscript records, which were placed therein at the time of laying the first granite course. A slab of quartzite closes the cavity and is cemented in place with due provision against the entrance of moisture.
There are in the walls several series of stones of emblematical design and significance, such as those representing the earth, moon, sun, and stars, and in addition are cloud stones, and stones bearing inscriptions.
The earth-stones are thirty-four in number, eleven on each side and six on each end of the building. They are set on the pedestal course, or first granite course, extending twenty-eight inches above ground. There is one of these stones in each buttress, excepting only the buttresses at the junction of the towers with the main body. These earth-stones constitute the largest cuboidal blocks in the building; each of them measures five feet six inches in height, four feet six inches in width, and one foot eight inches in thickness, and weighs little less than three and one-half tons. Each of these massive blocks is cut to show part of the surface of a sphere, the segment having a diameter of over three feet.
Blocks cut to represent the moon in its several phases, and known as moon-stones, occupy conspicuous places in the buttresses immediately below the second string-course or water-table; they are therefore on a level with the top of the first or lower line of oval windows corresponding to the ceiling of the Mezzanine story. There are fifty such moon-stones; each four feet seven inches high, three feet six inches wide, and one foot thick.
Sun-stones are set in the buttresses directly under the third belt-course or water-table, which is practically the level of the roof. There are fifty of these, each cut to represent the body of the sun, with a serrated edge of fifty-two points illustrative of the sun’s rays. These stones are each four feet seven inches high, three feet six inches wide, and ten inches thick.
Star-stones are numerous; each bears in relief the figure of a five-pointed star. On the east center-tower immediately below the battlements are sixteen of these, four of each face; and on each of the east corner-towers are twelve such stones, making forty on these towers alone. The keystones of the doorways and those of the window arches belong to this class, each bearing a single star.
Star-stones of another kind appear on the face of the center tower at the west. Here, above the highest window and extending to the base of the battlement course, are seen the seven stars of the northern constellation Ursa Major or Great Bear, otherwise known as the Dipper. The group is so placed that the two stars called pointers are practically in line with the North Star itself.
Cloud-stones, two in number, are seen on the upper face of the east center tower, immediately under the cap-pings of the main buttresses. These show a cluster of cumulus clouds through which the sun’s rays are breaking. The face so carved is five feet by three and a half feet in area.
Reference has been made to inscription-stones which form part of the exterior walls. The principal stone of this class is seen on the east centre tower, above the windows, corresponding in position to the starry constellation on the center tower at the west. The main inscription, which occupies a surface a little over twenty by six feet, consists of letters deeply cut and heavily gilded. In the arches over the great windows of the central towers appear inscriptions which are alike at both ends of the building. The keystone of the lower window bears on a carven scroll “I am Alpha and Omega.” This inscription, a figurative epitome of both time and eternity, and a proclamation of Him who is without beginning and without end, has a peculiar appropriateness over the central casements of this, the House of the Lord; and he who pauses to read may well consider the text and its context in full: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
Immediately beneath this inscription in the lower window arch of the centre tower appears in relief the emblem of the clasped hands, betokening the bond of brotherhood and the free offering of the right hand of fellowship. On the corresponding stones above the upper windows in each of the center towers is a carven emblem of the All-seeing Eye.
Entrance to the Temple directly from without is afforded by four great doorways, two at either end; each of these portals occupies a court between the center tower and the adjoining corner tower. The four door-ways are of like construction. A flight of sixteen granits steps leads up the court; the lowest of these steps is approximately sixteen feet in length, the top step about nine feet, and each of the steps between about ten feet long. On the uppermost granite slab rests the threshold or door-step proper, which is of cast bronze. The door-way is eight feet wide, and sixteen feet six inches in extreme height. This is closed by double doors with arched transom. The doors proper are twelve feet high, and each single door is four feet wide. In each door the bottom panel is of oak, while the middle and upper panels are occupied by beveled plate glass protected by bronze grills of intricate pattern carrying a bee-hive medallion in the center. The hardware attachments are all of cast bronze, and are of special design. The door-knob bears in relief the bee-hive, above which, in a curved line, appear the words, “Holiness to the Lord.” The escutcheon presents in relief the clasped hands within a wreath of olive twigs, an arch with keystone, and the dates “1853-1893″-the years in which the great building was commenced and completed.
On the side of each of the doorways flanking the center tower is a canopied niche in the granite, large enough to receive a statue of heroic proportions.
Such is the great Temple as seen from without. The massive pile impresses even the casual observer as a type of permanency, and the embodiment of the stable and the durable. It stands as an isolated mass of the everlasting hills. As nearly as any work of man may so do, it suggests duration.