‘The Modernist’ magazine earlier in the year for their “F- For Faith” issue 19.
It’s one of several projects I’ve done around war memorials and remembrance, which started in March of this year with my 49-page booklet ‘Best We Forget’. I’ll tell you in my next post about a psychogeographical inspired piece ‘A Walk in the Parks’ which is also back from the printers – and they’ll be a sound piece about the Two Minutes Silence along presently.
Back to ‘Faithless’ – It’s a two sided, A3 sheet, z-folded into 6-panels and was printed in colour by an on-line printer, who I can heartily recommend. I’d usually have a pdf here for people to download, but because it’s printed as a z-fold, the page order doesn’t run in the right order when it’s viewed on-screen. So I’ll put the text and some photos from it here…
Although classical in form, the Cenotaph looks ‘modern-ish’, if not modernist. It entered the public consciousness as the modern world was being wrought out of the political and social upheavals that followed the end of the Great War.
In ‘Lutyens and the Great War’ Tim Skelton and Gerald Giddon argue the Cenotaph’s immediate and undoubted success:
“Owed much to its simplicity and non-religious appearance. It was a blank canvas on to which people could project their own particular thoughts, with its combination of simplicity, elegance and lack of triumphalism…”
It is probably the best-known monument in Britain, yet was hastily commissioned and designed. It was not meant to be permanent structure, let alone a fixture of national life. A Victory/Peace Day Parade was organized for July 1919 and it was proposed that a number of temporary structures be placed along the route.
Lutyens quickly rejected the idea of a catafalque. Instead he proposed a cenotaph (Latin for ‘empty tomb’) in the form of a pylon (a classical term for a tall pedestal). He and the Prime Minister Lloyd George wanted the memorial to be secular, noting that many of the Empire’s troops had not been Christians. The Church of England wanted a big cross, the military something full of imperial and martial symbolism. Ultimately both pressures were resisted, although the flags of the three armed services were hung from the monument.
“Immediately become a focus for the mass grief of a nation ravaged by a war that had until then not had a sufficient collective opportunity for expression – grief particularly enhanced because very few bodies had been repatriated from foreign theatres of war and few of the fallen had had individual funerals.”
The present structure has continued to be the main focus for remembrance, seamlessly encompassing the dead of World War Two and later conflicts.
“Rectangular in plan. At the top is a plain tomb chest, with moulded cover, on which lies a large laurel wreath. It stands on a three-staged base, which in turn stands on a tall shaft, set back towards its upper section. Beneath is the two-stage base, with cyma recta [concave at the top, convex at the bottom] moulding to the foot of the shaft…
“The Cenotaph is sparsely enriched and very carefully executed…
The restraint in ornament was not down to modernist principles. Ostentatious decoration was considered to be inappropriate in a monument to a war, which was already being interpreted as a tragedy. In John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga (1922), one character describes the Cenotaph as a “Monument to the dread of swank.”
Lutyens had used the careful geometry and principle of entasis in 1918 with his Stones of Remembrance. These were installed in the hundreds of military cemeteries being established by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission. Each was 12 feet long, ostensibly monolithic, with a barely perceptible curvature, that if extended would form a circle 1,801 feet and 8 inches in diameter. (To appease religious sentiment, a Cross of Sacrifice designed by Reginald Blomfield would also be installed.
Before the war, Lutyens was principally known for country houses and his work at New Delhi. Afterwards it would be for his monuments such as the Thiepval Arch, but above all he is remembered for the Cenotaph. He would go on to design 44 war memorials in England (which are all listed, seven at Grade 1) and a number abroad. Eight of these are Cenotaphs, two are reduced scale copies, the half sized Royal Berkshire Regiment Cenotaph outside Brock Barracks in Reading and the two-thirds sized Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment Cenotaph, in Maidstone, Kent. Others are in Manchester from 1924 and Norwich (his last) from 1927. An exact replica of the Whitehall monument was unveiled in 1934 in London, Ontario in Canada. The Imperial War Museum has catalogued 47 further cenotaphs designed by others to the same end.