Revealing the Shrine of Remembrance’s Hellenic roots

From Anzac to Ancient Greece

From Anzac to Ancient Greece

The bronze Symbol of Glory at the summit of the Shrine’s pyramid roof is based on the Choragic monument of Lysicrates that still stands in Athens. In this picture the symbol’s creator Harry Chalmers (top left) poses precariously with colleagues after its installation. PHOTO: SHRINE OF REMEMBRANCE ARCHIVE.

While the grand porticos of the Shrine of Remembrance remind any visitor that the glories of ancient Greece were uppermost in the minds of its architects, perhaps few know how deeply the classical allusions lie in Victoria’s most symbolic building.

A war memorial in Melbourne was proposed immediately after the First World War ended in November 1918.

Various projects were put forward, including a victory arch and a memorial hospital, before a competition launched in 1922 generated 83 entries. Melbourne architects Phillip Hudson and James Wardrop were announced the winners.

In 1924 Hudson, a WWI veteran himself, looked to Ancient Greece to evoke classical virtues in his design for the Shrine, on the site beside St Kilda Road which he saw as similar to the Acropolis.
Hudson believed that Australia’s experience and sacrifice in the First World War would find in the architecture of classical Greece a fitting and enduring reflection.

The Shrine’s design is based on two great buildings from the Classical period; the Parthenon, and the ancient Mausoleum of Mausolos at Halicarnus (now Bodrum in Turkey), known to the ancients as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The pyramid roof was inspired particularly by the 4th Century BC mausoleum. Sketched reconstructions of the ancient tomb, destroyed long ago, have for centuries influenced funerary architecture

And whilst it was the mausoleum that informed Hudson’s thinking on the shape and proportions of the building, it was the Athenian Parthenon that inspired the entrance porches including the Doric order of eight columns.

Hudson made all vertical lines of the Shrine incline towards a point of convergence 2.25 kilometres above ground level. A similar technique called entasis was employed by ancient Greek architects to correct optical distortions.

The tympanum – the triangular stone facade above the portico column on the north side of the Shrine – represents the ‘call to arms’, with an ancient Grecian goddess representing the mother country, appealing to her children to defend her, alongside the terror and chaos of war. Beside them an old man remembers the brave deeds of his more potent youth.

If you lift your head to the Shrine’s top-most feature, the Symbol of Glory at the apex of the pyramid roof crowns Melbourne’s memorial to the fallen and the service of successive generations. Based on an ancient Greek trophy – the Choragic monument of Lysicrates – and made of bronze, it was cast by Melbourne sculptor Harry Chalmers.

Each Anzac Day morning just before sunrise, a light (installed in the 1980s) shines out from the top of the Symbol of Glory during the Dawn Service.


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