Saturday, January 23, 2010

A place to remember: a history of the Shrine of Rembrance

Special buildings have their own atmosphere commanding awe and respect. The Shrine of Remembrance in St Kilda Road is one such building. When my three sons were young I took them to visit the Shrine of Remembrance. The guard on our arrival was not encouraging and warned me that if any of the boys misbehaved we would be asked to leave. He need not have worried for as soon as we entered the precinct the atmosphere of the building immediately impacted upon the boys as we explored the memorial. They instinctively knew that this was a special place.

The Shrine of Remembrance was dedicated on the 11 November 1934. This book by Bruce Scates celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Shrine by examining the quest to have a suitable war memorial in Melbourne, the controversy that ensued from the announcement of the award winning design in 1924 until the laying of the foundation stone in 1927, raising the finances for building the Shrine, the building process and subsequent additions and memorials including the new visitors' centre and the effectiveness of the Shrine as a memorial.

In the 1920s there were many conflicting views as to the type of memorial to be built - a cenotaph in a newly constructed park in the city, a tower, a hospital, an arch with cafes at ground level were some suggestions. A competition was held for the design of the memorial but when the design for the Shrine was selected in 1924 the Herald newspaper ran a campaign, including a plebiscite, to try and rally public opinion to have the award overturned. There were also accusations of plagiarism (dismissed) as parts of the design were based on older architectural styles. A temporary cenotaph was constructed with suggestions made that a permanent cenotaph should be built in Melbourne, possibly near Parliament House, instead of the Shrine. However the matter was resolved in April 1927 when Sir John Monash, at a dinner commemorating Anzac Day, announced that 'the Shrine of Remembrance is the only memorial worthy of the support of the soldiers of Victoria' and on the 11th November 1927 the foundation stone for the Shrine was laid.

Since the dedication of the Shrine in 1934 it has become a focal point for Melbourne, a place where people can go at any time to remember the sacrifice of those who served their country in war that there may be peace.

No comments: