The Hancock Tower and the Solstice

In the early 80s, I worked at Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston's Copley Square. It was my job to open the church to the public every weekday morning at 0800. Its neighbor, the John Hancock building, was infamous for popping its glass panels. These fell with great force, shattering into shards six feet long, piercing car doors below. The Hancock has a peculiar shape, a parallelepiped, wasting a good bit of space on the Clarendon Street side. Trudging to work one morning, I saw the rising sun's rays run parallel to that side, throwing shadow just to the left of the leftmost stained glass window in the Trinity nave. That strange angle was calculated to keep from blocking the light from that exquisite LaFarge glass. Then I realized the date was December 21, the solstice. Just like Stonehenge, the John Hancock Tower was designed at the behest of priests, in conformity with the apparent course of the sun through the heavens.

© 2001 by Patrick McCollum. 
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