Stone of Remembrance

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Florence Cemetery Cimitero del girone 3.jpg
Florence Cemetery

The Stone of Remembrance was designed by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens for the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC). [lower-alpha 1] It was designed to commemorate the dead of World War I, to be used in IWGC war cemeteries containing 1000 or more graves, or at memorial sites commemorating more than 1000 war dead. Hundreds were erected following World War I, and it has since been used in cemeteries containing the Commonwealth dead of World War II as well. It is intended to commemorate those "of all faiths and none", [1] and has been described as one of Lutyens' "most important and powerful works", [2] with a "brooding, sentinel-like presence wherever used". [2]

Edwin Lutyens British architect

Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, was an English architect known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era. He designed many English country houses, war memorials and public buildings. In his biography, the writer Christopher Hussey wrote, "In his lifetime (Lutyens) was widely held to be our greatest architect since Wren if not, as many maintained, his superior". The architectural historian Gavin Stamp described him as "surely the greatest British architect of the twentieth century".

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Cemetery Place of burial

A cemetery or graveyard is a place where the remains of dead people are buried or otherwise interred. The word cemetery implies that the land is specifically designated as a burial ground and originally applied to the Roman catacombs. The term graveyard is often used interchangeably with cemetery, but a graveyard primarily refers to a burial ground within a churchyard.

Contents

Design

The initial thoughts for the design were sent by Lutyens in letters and memoranda in May and August 1917 to Fabian Ware, the founder and head of the Imperial War Graves Commission, before and after the period in which Lutyens and other architects visited the wartime cemeteries in France in July 1917 at the request of Ware, to give their initial thoughts on what should be done to commemorate the dead:

Fabian Ware British Army general and founder of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, was the founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission, now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Born in Clifton, Bristol, he graduated from the University of Paris in 1894, and traveled to the Transvaal Colony where, as a member of Milner's Kindergarten, he became Director of Education. Ware next became editor of the Morning Post, being fired in 1911 after several controversies. When the First World War started in August 1914, Ware attempted to join the British Army but was rejected because he was too old, and so with the assistance of Lord Milner, he obtained command of a mobile ambulance unit provided by the British Red Cross Society. He ended the war as a major general, and was mentioned in despatches twice. During the war, he founded the Imperial War Graves Commission.

On platforms made of not less than three steps... place one great stone of fine proportion 12 feet long and finely wrot – without undue ornament and tricky and elaborate carvings – and inscribe thereon one thought in clear letters so that all men for all times may read and know the reason why these stones are placed throughout France – facing the West and facing the men who lie looking ever eastward towards the enemy.

Letter from Lutyens to Ware in May 1917, quoted from Lutyens and the Great War (2009) [3]

Part of the design is the three-stepped platform on which each stone rests. Architectural historian Gavin Stamp, in Silent Cities (1977), quotes further from Lutyen's 1917 correspondence with Ware, where Lutyens describes the proposed stone as:

Gavin Mark Stamp was a British writer and architectural historian.

...one great fair stone of fine proportions, twelve feet in length, lying raised upon three steps, of which the first and third shall be twice the width of the second.

Memorandum from Lutyens to Ware in August 1917, quoted from Silent Cities (1977) [4]

In a later work in 2006, Stamp identifies a similarly abstract and geometrical concept that was part of Lutyens' creative process, citing a letter that Lutyens wrote to his wife while on the July 1917 visit to France, describing how a 'solid ball of bronze' could be used to make a permanent monument. [5]

By the time of Ware's 1937 report, published as The Immortal Heritage the same year, some 560 Stones of Remembrance had been erected for World War I cemeteries and memorials in France and Belgium alone. [5]

Symbolism

Unveiling ceremony for a Stone of Remembrance in 1924 StateLibQld 2 254820 Official ceremony for the unveiling of the Stone of Remembrance, Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, 1924.jpg
Unveiling ceremony for a Stone of Remembrance in 1924
Children with a wreath-laden Stone of Remembrance on Anzac Day in 1924 StateLibQld 2 254828 Small children looking at wreaths laid at the memorial on Anzac Day, Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, 1924.jpg
Children with a wreath-laden Stone of Remembrance on Anzac Day in 1924

The Stone of Remembrance is one of the standard architectural features of Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and memorials, the other being the Cross of Sacrifice by Reginald Blomfield. In contrast, the design for the Stone deliberately avoided "shapes associated with particular religions". [1] The shape of the Stone has been compared both to that of a sarcophagus [6] and an altar, [lower-alpha 2] but was always intended to be abstract and appeal to all denominations.

Cross of Sacrifice design of war memorial by Reginald Blomfield

The Cross of Sacrifice is a Commonwealth war memorial designed in 1918 by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the Imperial War Graves Commission. It is present in Commonwealth war cemeteries containing 40 or more graves. Its shape is an elongated Latin cross with proportions more typical of the Celtic cross, with the shaft and crossarm octagonal in section. It ranges in height from 18 to 24 feet. A bronze longsword, blade down, is affixed to the front of the cross. It is usually mounted on an octagonal base. It may be freestanding or incorporated into other cemetery features. The Cross of Sacrifice is widely praised, widely imitated, and the archetypal British war memorial. It is the most imitated of Commonwealth war memorials, and duplicates and imitations have been used around the world.

Sarcophagus Box-like funeral receptacle

A sarcophagus is a box-like funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved in stone, and usually displayed above ground, though it may also be buried. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σάρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγεῖν phagein meaning "to eat"; hence sarcophagus means "flesh-eating", from the phrase lithos sarkophagos, "flesh-eating stone". The word also came to refer to a particular kind of limestone that was thought to rapidly facilitate the decomposition of the flesh of corpses contained within it due to the chemical properties of the limestone itself.

Altar structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes

An altar is a structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are found at shrines, temples, churches and other places of worship. They are used particularly in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Modern Paganism. Many historical faiths also made use of them, including Roman, Greek and Norse religion.

There was, however, controversy over the symbolism, both during the design and approval process and subsequently. Lutyens and those supporting the concept of secular architecture and equality of remembrance (including Ware) had to contend with those (including other architects advising the Commission and Anglican bishops) who wanted the overt Christian symbolism of a cross, or who objected to the pagan overtones of the proposed Stone. Lutyens corresponded with a wide variety of people to gain support for his idea. Eventually (by January 1918), the decision to use both Cross and Stone was taken, and the two designs were adopted in different ways. [3] Blomfield's Cross was built in different sizes according to the size of the cemetery, with Lutyens' Stone staying the same size but not being used in the smaller cemeteries (of less than 1000 burials) where it was thought it would overwhelm the setting.

Geometry

The geometry of the stone structure was "based on studies of the Parthenon". [1] According to the Australian Government Department of Veterans' Affairs each stone is 3.5 metres long and 1.5 metres high. [6] [lower-alpha 3] It was designed using the principle of entasis. [2] This involved incorporating subtle curves into the design, so that the stone does not have straight sides, but has circular lines that if extended would form a sphere 1,801 feet and 8 inches (549.15 metres) in diameter. [5] The effect of the stone monument has been attributed to its geometry: "...its curious power and symbolic strength derive from its careful proportions and the application of a subtle entasis to all its surfaces." [4]

Inscription

The phrase inscribed on the stone, one of several suggested during the design phase, was proposed by the British author, poet and Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, whose only son had died in the war. Kipling's role was to advise the IWGC (now CWGC) on inscriptions and other literary matters, and the phrase used on the Stones of Remembrance is a quote from the Wisdom of Sirach. [3]

Notes

  1. The Imperial War Graves Commission was renamed as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1960.
  2. Those referring to the Stone as an altar included Lutyens himself, who was reported by Stamp (2006) to have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1923 saying that he was pleased to see that a newspaper report had described a "Great War Stone" being "used as an Altar for the administration of Holy Communion". Lutyens also referred to his design as an altar in correspondence with Ware, as reported by Skelton and Gliddon (2009) from the CWGC archives of minutes from a meeting held in France in July 1917, where Lutyens proposed: '[a] monolithic Altar [...] which should appeal to every feeling and denomination'.
  3. Although as noted above, Lutyens himself specified that the length should be 12 feet (3.66 metres).

Related Research Articles

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is an intergovernmental organisation of six independent member states whose principal function is to mark, record and maintain the graves and places of commemoration of Commonwealth of Nations military service members who died in the two World Wars. The Commission is also responsible for commemorating Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action during World War II. The Commission was founded by Sir Fabian Ware and constituted through Royal Charter in 1917 named the Imperial War Graves Commission. The change to the present name took place in 1960.

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Sandhurst War Memorial Sandhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN18

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References

  1. 1 2 3 Architecture, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, accessed 01/03/2010
  2. 1 2 3 Remembering the Great War with Lutyens, Tim Skelton, British Archaeology, Issue 109, Nov / Dec 2009
  3. 1 2 3 Lutyens and the Great War (2009; Tim Skelton and Gerald Gliddon), Chapter 3 "The War Stone"
  4. 1 2 Silent Cities – An Exhibition of the Memorial and Cemetery Architecture of the Great War, Gavin Stamp, 1977, published by the RIBA
  5. 1 2 3 The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Gavin Stamp, 2006
  6. 1 2 Stone of Remembrance, Australian Government Department of Veterans' Affairs, accessed 01/03/2010.