I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published August 11th 2013
If you can stand on the forecourt of Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, reflect on what it stands for, and not get a chill up and down your spine I'm sorry, but your veins must be full of ice water.
Sacred ground, Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance
This truly is sacred ground. But the battle to give Victoria a memorial to the States war dead – what to build, where to build it, perhaps whether or not to build it at all – divided the State and lasted almost twice as long as the war it was to commemorate.
Burning on the forecourt of the Shrine is the Eternal Flame
The proposal for a memorial was first floated almost as soon as World War 1 ended. Proponents included legendary General Sir John Monash, artist Norman Lindsay, the Legacy movement and the AGE newspaper. But fierce opposition was led by publisher and owner of the HERALD newspaper Keith Murdoch. He described the proposed design as 'a tomb of gloom' and argued that the money would be better spent on a memorial hospital or war-widow's home.
Murdoch's supporters included the Labor Government of the day and a significant number of churches who decried the design for its lack of a cross or other Christian symbols. But Monash persisted and following an outpouring of support on ANZAC Day 1927 the Government finally voted in favor of the Shrine.
Melbourne's magnificent Shrine stands testament to the persistence of the late General Sir John Monash
The foundation was laid on Remembrance Day 1927 and construction commenced in 1928 under the watchful eye of Monash, himself a qualified engineer. Sadly though he never saw the finished building and passed away in 1931, roughly half-way through the construction of the Shrine which was finally completed in September 1934.
On Remembrance Day that year, an incredible crowd of 300,000 people, almost a third of Melbourne's population, turned out to witness the Duke of Gloucester dedicate the Shrine of Remembrance.
Simpson and his donkey, one of many commemorative statues to be found in the gardens the Shrine
Architects based the design of the Shrine on an ancient Mausoleum, Maussollus one of the Seven Wonders of The World, and on the Greek Parthenon. Square, and entered through classic 'porticos' on its southern and northern sides, it's an imposing piece of architecture and an Australian icon set amid manicured gardens and overlooking one of the world's great boulevards, St Kilda Road.
Inside is a high vaulted Sanctuary and within it the Stone of Remembrance, the heart of the Shrine, a piece of marble recessed below the pavement level so that no-one can read the inscription without bowing their head. Bearing the inscription GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN, the stone was placed so that at exactly 11 AM on the 11th November, the hour and day on which World War 1 ended in 1918, a ray of sunlight shone on the word LOVE. Because of the introduction of Daylight Savings in Victoria it was necessary to install a mirror to reflect the light onto the appropriate spot at 11 AM AEDST.
Originally conceived as a memorial to soldiers from the Great War, WW1, today the Shrine of Remembrance remembers all those Australians lost in all conflicts
Beneath the Sanctuary is the Crypt with its bronze statue of a father & son commemorating the sacrifice of two generations during two world wars. The walls are draped with the colours and battle honours of units of the AIF, the Australian Imperial Force.
Each ANZAC Day the Shrine is the focal point for Melbourne's march and memorial service.
Far grander and much improved from that opened on 11th November 1934, today's Shrine of Remembrance is a meticulously maintained, holy monument dedicated to the generations of young Australian men and women who have given their lives in conflicts world-wide.
If you haven 't had the opportunity to visit Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance yet you really should make the effort. And if you go to an ANZAC Day Dawn Service, I can promise you an incredibly moving experience.