On my recent trip to Melbourne, I also paid a visit to the amazing Shrine of Remembrance. A fantastic monument to those who have fought, suffered and delivered aid in all wars that Australia took part in. Read here what you can expect from a visit.
I come from a country that has officially started and lost two Great Wars in the 20th century. Naturally, we have a very different view on these wars than other nations. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely ok this way, and I totally understand why we are not honouring war heroes in the same way as other countries. Although I am sure that most men that have fought for Germany were not exactly given a choice either.
Anyway, my point is that in Australia I am always amazed that I am coming across these great symbols of admiration for the men and women who have made great sacrifices for their country. There’s the ANZAC Memorial in Sydney of course, located in the South of Hyde Park, and then there are all the different places you can visit in the nation’s capital Canberra. But in Melbourne is another great monument which captures perfectly the sentiment and the gratefulness Australians feel towards their soldiers and other people who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I like that, a lot.
Private Simpson and his Loyal Donkey
Think for example about the story of the soldier at Gallipoli, Simpson, who saved within 24 days the lives of more than 300 wounded men who he carried on the back of his donkey to safety, all the while singing and whistling as if this was just a walk in the park. On the 24th day he received a fatal gun shot to his back, but these 24 days of saving casualties in the most courageous way turned him and his donkey into one of the most loved Australian war heroes. His statue can today be seen right next to the Melbourne Shrine.
The Shrine of Remembrance is a freestanding building beautifully located in the parklands next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. You can easily walk the distance from the city centre starting from Federation Square, and it’s a pleasant walk too as it takes you through the parklands.
Fashioned After the Mausoleum of Maussollos
The Shrine resembles a giant ancient building, and not by accident: it is fashioned after the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus. Nothing that has been done with this building has been done without a purpose or greater thought, with all features having some deep symbolic meaning. Just think about it, how wonderful! Let me show you some parts of the memorial that I liked best. Entry is free, of course.
The entry courtyard is a stunning composition of shades of red, symbolising the poppy flower. If you are wondering like me why the poppy is actually so significant for war memorials and commemorations: it is said to be the first living thing to have grown in the battle fields of the Great War and thus it serves now as a constant reminder of these places – “Lest we forget” is aptly carved into the stone in oversized letters.
A Gallery of Bravery
The Gallery of Medals allow just a small glimpse into the bravery of the Victorian soldiers – each one of these 4,000 medals represent 100 Victorians who have served in war and peacekeeping situations and six who have lost their lives. It is really worthwhile spending some time here and exploring their stories.
The centrepiece of the shrine is the Crypt – a vast chamber not unlike inside a pyramid which has a statue of a soldier and this soldier’s son back to back in its centre. These two figures represent the two generations that have fought in the two Great Wars.
In another area inside the shrine you will find a framed, sunken marble stone with an inscription sitting in a carefully positioned place on the floor. The inscription is a bible quote which reads “Greater Love Hath No Man”. The stone is positioned in a way so that a ray of light will fall exactly on the word “Love” on November the 11th at 11 o’clock – the time when the armistice came into effect at the end of World War I.
Step outside and you will see the Second World War Forecourt which is where every year commemorative services will take place. On top of the stairs you can enjoy great views all the way to the Melbourne city centre, and if you look carefully you might notice that two of the tall office towers in the distance have fronts that trick the eye into believing that you see the outlines of faces.
A Must-See in Melbourne: The Shrine of Remembrance
There’s much more to see and discover around the Shrine, and the visitor centre will be more than happy to help you when you visit. The website is also very well done, so you might want to have a look here too: http://www.shrine.org.au/
The Shrine of Remembrance. Birdwood Ave, Melbourne VIC 3001. http://www.shrine.org.au/
You May Also Want to Read This
Melbourne Travel Blog