Today, of course, is September11. It seems impossible that 11 years have gone by since that day, which no one here will ever forget. As the building goes on for monuments in NYC and elsewhere, I thought I would take a quick look at another memorial built to commemorate a terrible event–the Great Fire monument in London.
The Great Fire started in a Pudding Lane bakeshop on September 2, 1666, and nearly wiped out the entire city (old, brittle, and built mostly of wood) before it was contained several days later. The Rebuilding Act of 1669 specified that some sort of memorial be built “the better to preserve the memory of this dreadful visitation.” It wasn’t until 1671 that the City Council approved a design, and 6 years before it was complete (plus another 2 before the inscription was finished!). The final cost was 13,450 pounds.
It’s a fluted Doric column of Portland stone topped with a crown of gilded flames at Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, 200 feet tall and 202 feet from the spot where the fire started (it’s said if the column topples that way it would land on the exact spot). It’s on the site of St. Margaret’s, Fish Street, the first church destroyed in the fire. The top is reached by a narrow winding staircase of 311 steps (a cage was added in the 1840s to prevent suicides). I am very claustrophobic, and have never tried this myself, but I hear the view is amazing!
The base is inscribed on 3 sides–the south describes the actions King Charles II took following the fire, the east how the monument was built and the mayors who oversaw it, the north how the fire started and was finally contained (a line about “Popish frenzy” was erased in 1830), and the west is a bas relief sculpture of Charles II and his brother the Duke of York, surrounded by Liberty, Architecture, and Science, directing the restoration of the city.
(For more info on the fire itself, look here…)
Have you ever seen this monument? What is the most moving/interesting/beautiful memorial you’ve seen??