27.07.2013 - 27.07.2013
The Shrine of Remembrance is Victoria's largest war memorial. It was originally built to commemorate those who had served in World War I and was a place that Victorians could come to to pay their respects to those who had fallen and were now buried oversea. It now seen as a place to remember all servicemen and women that have served over the years.
This is definitely the most impressive aspect of the Shrine of Remembrance. Framed by trees which have each been planted in memory of a battalion creating an alluring perspective that beckons you towards the shrine.
The courtyard of the shrine is actually shaped to represent a cross and was created as the World War II memorial along with the Eternal Flame and the Cenotaph. This form really takes shape when you climb to the top of the shrine and look out over the courtyard.
We were also able to spot our flat from this vantage point too (helped by a good zoom). Its the one in the middle and we live on the top floor
The Eternal flame has burned continuously since 1954 when it was lit by Queen Elizabeth and sits in a bronze bowl beneath the Cenotaph.
The Cenotaph itself notes all the countries that Australians served in during the Second World War and the statue on top represents 2 soldiers, 2 sailors and 2 airmen who are carrying a dead comrade whose body is draped with the national flag.
At the other end of the arm of the cross are 3 flag poles flying the flags of Australia, Victoria and the third flag represents one of the forces which is rotated. When we were there it was representing the airforce.
Before we went into the shrine the guide told us the significance of the gardens that surround it. The trees have been carefully selected as memorial trees that are each dedicated to Victorian units. Veterans, family and friends congregate at these trees to pay their respects and remember them. Round the side of the shrine is what our guide referred to as the 'forgotten garden' which represents more recent wars that Australia has fought in, with plants from these countries plated here next to a fountain.
The Shrine itself was actually built by veterans of the First World War and was a way to provide returning soldiers with employment. This not only gave them a purpose and direction when they returned to Victoria, but also allowed them to express their loss and commemorate those who had once stood beside them.
The architecture and craftsmanship of this building is a marvel. We were amazed when we were told about the Ray of Light Ceremony where once a year on Remembrance day exactly at 11am on 11th November a ray of light shines down on to the Stone of Remembrance to mark the end of World War I. I believe it takes 15 minutes for the light to travel across the Stone of Remembrance lighting up the words 'Love' in the saying that is engraved there.
If I remember rightly our guide told us it took 110 pages of calculations for them to work out exactly how to build the shrine for this phenomenon to take place!
If you look closely in the top left hand corner of this picture you will see the mirror that has been so strategically placed to make this happen.
When you visit the Shrine you can experience a reenactment of the Ray of Light Ceremony every half hour and we participated in a minutes silence and had a moment of reflection.
Imposing black marble pillars surround the Sanctuary supporting the conical roof and the friezes that have been expertly carved in situ to represent different aspects of life for those serving during the Frist World War.
These depictions varied from life in the trenches and the use of radios to the first attempts to use aviation in war. The detail in the carving even went down to the wrapping that the soldiers would strap to their legs before they went 'over the top' to help combat against the sea of barbed wire that was waiting to ensnare them. It also acknowledges the work that women did as nurses putting their lives in danger to help the wounded.
It was great having the guide with us to point out these intricacies and tell us more about the history and life for people during this time. She even pointed out that if you look closely at the marble pillars that you can see fossils.
The Shrine of Remembrance should be high on the list of places to visit whilst in Melbourne and worth having someone who know the history to bring to life what this represents and the significance of not only the past but the learnings we must take for the future.