Translation Please

My son and I enjoyed our campus visit to the University of Waterloo. We head out to Laurier tomorrow. Joshua gained an early offer from Laurier’s Honours Business Administration program. As a Western grad, I’m a bit partial to the business program at that university. It will be interesting to see how Laurier’s program stacks up in comparison.

When we visited Waterloo, we spent some time at the Hagey Hall of the Humanities. The hall had a plaque of the founding president of Waterloo with the following inscription:

si monumentum requiris, circumspice

We asked one of the University staff to translate. Her response: “I’m a science and math grad. I don’t know what that motto means.”

Judging her age, she had graduated some 20 years ago.

No disrespect to science and math grads, but it seemed like an odd comment to make.

“What do you think about Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan?”
“I’m a science and math grad. I don’t have an opinion.”

I’m a business and computer science grad. And I did not know what the inscription meant either. Perhaps the business degree pushed me to find the answer.

si monumentum requiris, circumspice
if you seek his monument, look around you

On February 25, 1723, at the age of ninety-one, Sir Christopher Wren closed his eyes for the last time. His faithful servant entered his room, thinking the old man had napped longer than usual after his dinner, and found him dead in his chair. His funeral was well attended as it made its way from his house in St. James Street to St. Paul”™s Cathedral where his body was interred in the crypt. His son Christopher composed his epitaph:

SUBTUS CONDITUR HUIUS ECCLESIÆ ET VRBIS CONDITOR CHRISTOPHORUS WREN, QUI VIXIT ANNOS ULTRA NONAGINTA, NON SIBI SED BONO PUBLICO. LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE Obijt XXV Feb: An°: MDCCXXIII Æt: XCI.

Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you. Died 25 Feb. 1723, age 91.

The phrase, si monumentum requiris, circumspice, refers to St. Paul”™s as Wren”™s monument. It has since become a particularly well-known epitaph, often favored by architects.

Via

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