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'Gog and Magog' in Melbourne's Royal Arcade

Home > Melbourne > Quirky | Misc
Published August 3rd 2014
Giants, demons, overlords or friendly timekeepers?
What follows here is a story of good versus evil, of the apocalypse, of the impending doom of the "end of days", of the scriptures of the Old Testament, the Book of Revelation, and the Qu'ran.

Sorry, no, cancel that. What follows here is a story from our pagan ancestors, a story that tells of giants, Trojans and human sacrifice.

Gog and Magog, Royal Arcade
Gog and Magog about to dong Gaunt's clock.

Well, the truth is the story behind Gog and Magog, the two imposing and fanciful timekeepers that you'll find in Melbourne's Royal Arcade just off Bourke Street mall, comes from a blend of Biblical, religious, pagan and military mythology.

These two seven-foot pine gents, who have been striking the time on Gaunt's clock since 1892, are modelled on figures found in London's Guildhall and symbolise the conflict between the ancient Britons and the Trojan armies.

The myth goes that the two giants were captures in battle by the Trojans and served as porters at the gateway of a palace later occupied by the Guildhall. London's Guildhall has been used as its Town Hall for hundreds of years, and is the ceremonial centre of the city. Gog and Magog are considered the traditional guardians of the City of London, and have been carried in the Lord Mayor's procession, in various forms, since the reign of Henry V. They have been made as effigies to be burnt in pagan ceremonies, as a way of replacing and symbolising sacrifice.

But the concept of Gog and Magog has also been found in various religious scriptures. In various points of the Bible, these two fellas are described as being descendants of prophets, in cahoots with Satan, and destined to invade Israel with their armies. The Qu'ran, the holy book of Islamic people, associates Gog and Magog with corruption in the land, destruction and disasters.

You'll also find these intriguing chaps in Russian, Jewish, Hindu and Irish literature. But they literally pop up everywhere. Geographical locations are often named after them, such as the Gog and Magog hills near Cambridge in England, Mt Gog and Mt Magog in Western Australia, two dolerite hills in Tasmania named Gog and Magog, and many more. There are even two big oak trees named after them in Somerset.

And here's a bit of weird trivia: former French president Jacques Chirac said George W Bush told him, before the Iraq invasion in 2003, that "Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East". Lordy.

The Royal Arcade, which is Gog and Magog's Melbourne home, was originally designed by the notable Charles Webb, who was also the architect behind Melbourne's stunning buildings the Windsor Hotel and the South Melbourne Town Hall. The arcade, which was built in 1869, has a glass roof and a beautiful old-world charm.

Royal Arcade Melbourne
Walk through Royal Arcade and step back in time to pagan and Biblical times.

The arcade, which was built on land originally purchased for 20 pounds. In 1955, the arcade was auctioned, and its tenants formed a company and purchased it together for $541,000. It was restored in the early 2000s to allow extra light and make storefronts more consistent, while retaining the original Renaissance Revival style. The arcade is now listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
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Where: Royal Arcade, Melbourne CBD
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