For a few weeks this August, Great War 100 Reads is revisiting some sites, to explore additional or altered elements of remembrance.
The Memorial Chamber in Ottawa’s Peace Tower has been a star feature in several Monday posts, for its architectural details and as home of the Books of Remembrance. The 24-foot square chamber soars up 47 feet to a fan vaulted ceiling. The 17 niches in the walls around the room are decorated with elaborate stone carvings. Three stained glass windows depict the Call to Arms, the Assembly of Remembrance and the Dawn of Peace. Architect John Pearson envisioned the space as a sacred grove with a central altar surrounded by design elements that rise to protect it.
Alas, the Memorial Chamber is closed for at least a decade, as the Centre Block undergoes major renovations. In the meantime, the Books of Remembrance are on view in the Room of Remembrance in the Visitor Welcome Centre on Parliament Hill.
Visiting the Room of Remembrance is a different experience than the Memorial Chamber. The room is sombre, the low dome ceiling and dim lighting conducive to contemplation. The books are displayed around the room. Dappled ceiling lights are reminiscent of stars. That’s it for decorative elements.
Some people like the new site better. The sole focus is the names in Books of Remembrance. The mood is solemn. The lighting is more suited to book conservation. I prefer the rich symbolism in the Memorial Chamber.
You can visit the Room of Remembrance at the Visitor Welcome Centre on Parliament Hill. I recommend booking a free tour of the House of Commons in the West Block, which ends at the Room of Remembrance. You can still see a virtual tour of the Memorial Chamber.