Hic Est Locus

Nobbs proposed watercolour drawing of the Pathological Institute.

The inscription, Hic est locus ubi mors resurgens rediviva est, carved over the gated archway of the Pathological Institute (today known as the Duff Medical Building), is easily missed. Translated, the words read: “Here is the place where death comes forth again in life.” The quote is attributed to the 18th century physician Giovanni Morgagni, and is a motto used in many morgues and departments of anatomical pathology. The Duff Medical Building housed McGill’s Department of Pathology from 1924 to 2015. The McGill pathology museum was moved to the building when it was built in 1924. Many of its specimens were accessioned from the morgue housed in its basement.

Two other Latin inscriptions in the main lobby off University Street give reference to the usage of the building as well. “Hic est locus ubi mors gaudet succerrere vitae” (Here is the place where death rejoices to be of service to life) and “Nihil sic revocat a pecato quam frequens mortis meditatio” (Nothing prevents error or sin so much as frequent contemplation of death). The architect of the building was Percy Nobbs. His choice of ornamentation reflected his belief that is was an essential carrier of meaning in architecture.

 

Detail of one of the plaster letters in lobby of the Pathological Institute

Lobby of the Pathological Institute, 3775 University Street, Montreal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Wagg, Susan W. Percy Erskine Nobbs: Architecte, Artiste, Artisan. Percy Erskine Nobbs: Architect, Artist, Craftsman. Kingston: McGill – Queen’s University Press, 1982.

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