Yesterday's blog about the First World War Centenary Woods project got me thinking about memorials more generally. There are few nations on the planet without some sort of history of war, and almost every country has a monument to the fallen.
Some memorials reflect sadly on the sacrifice of lives, while others celebrate glorious victories. Some are grand, spectacular buildings and some are rather austere.
I have chosen the following, either because I have visited them or would like to visit them! They reflect, I think, the variety of forms a memorial can manifest, as well as the differing attitudes and perceptions behind their building.
1.) Befreiungshalle, Kelheim, Germany.
Built under the order of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, this building is designed to celebrate the victories against Napoleon in the Wars of Liberation in 1813-1815. The interior is truly beautiful, and when lit up at night it is a spectacular sight.
2.)Voelkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany.
You could accuse me of a lack of imagination here, but I actually saw these two German Napoleonic Wars memorials on one trip. This picture shows the memorial of the battle of the nations, Leipzig, under construction. The epic and stunning monument was completed in 1913, at the centenary of the battle, at a reported cost of 6 Million Goldmarks.
3.) Piskarevskoye memorial, St. Petersburg, Russia
The centrepiece of this memorial cemetery is this bronze statue representing Mother, Motherland. The memorial is dedicated to all those who died during the siege of Leningrad, one of the most appalling losses of life in history.
4.) Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium
This memorial is especially striking to me, not only because of its size and grandeur, but because it very much resembles the war memorial in my school chapel. The layout of the interior of the chapel was very similar, with row upon row of names of deceased combatants inscribed onto the walls. In this picture the rows of names are visible, as visitors inside listen to 'The Last Post'.
5.) Liberty memorial, Kansas, Missourri, United States
A truly enormous monument to the fallen in WWI. This is one I desperately want to go and see because, despite the imposing visual presence of the column, I have only recently learned of its' existence! I think it calls into question the idea that remembering WWI is of limited significance in the United States, which is an opinion I have heard uttered a few times recently in light of the scale of the European remembrance during the centenary year.
6.) Yasukuni Shrine, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan.
Possibly the most controversial war memorial in the world, Yasukuni shrine was built during the reign of the Emperor Meiji to commemorate all those who had fallen during the Neiji Restoration. It has now grown to encompass the dead from all the wars that Japan has been involved in since then. The shrine embodies traditional Shinto beliefs and as such it is a religious, as well as a national military monument. Fallen warriors are deified here, which is where the controversy comes in, as up to 1,000 war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni. This image shows German Naval officers visiting the shrine in the 1930s.
What are your favourite memorials? What are the ones you find most impressive/moving, and why?
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