You Must Visit Melbourne’s Shrine Of Remembrance

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An Historic Monument And Cultural Landmark

You must visit Melbourne‘s Shrine of Remembrance, one of the most famous attractions in the city. An imposing monument standing proudly on the skyline and a much-loved icon of Australian history.

The Shrine of Remembrance is an important Melbourne landmark, war memorial and cultural heritage site, where regular ceremonies and parades are held every year. The Shrine is a place where people can come and learn about the nation’s military endeavours and the individuals who sacrificed their lives for Australia and the world. It’s a truly fascinating walk through Australia’s war history for everyone to appreciate.

I visited recently for the first time in many years and was blown away by the whole experience and quite overwhelmed with the real-life stories of the men and women who have served in the military and what they went through.

There is so much to explore at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. Let me give you a brief guide on what you will see and do here.

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History of The Shrine of Remembrance

Built in 1934 as a war memorial to honour Victorians that had served in WW1, of which 19,000 died. It was initially much like a mausoleum for family members of soldiers to mourn.

Now it commemorates all Australian service men and women who have contributed to all the wars and peacekeeping efforts they have been a part of around the world.

Originally, an arch of honour, or a triumphal arch, was proposed to be built over St Kilda Road, which was the main boulevard to the city. Other ideas were also suggested. But in the end the large Shrine war memorial was decided on. The location chosen was an elevated grassy site, so as to be seen easily from the city, on the central axis in line with Swanston Street, located on St Kilda Road, heading south from the centre of town.

However, not everyone liked the design at the time, with some calling it a tomb of gloom and pagan.

It’s interesting that most of the funds for the original building were raised by public contributions. A truly amazing feat considering the difficult economic times.

This was the first war memorial to be built in Australia.

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Inscription on side of the Shrine

Architecture of The Shrine of Remembrance

The stunning structure was modelled on famous Greek architecture in the style of classical antiquity. The exterior resembles the ancient Parthenon in Athens. 

The crowning glory on top of the monument is a stepped pyramid, another nod to ancient cultures.

All building materials used were sourced from within Australia. Granodiorite, sandstone, and black marble. Australian wood was also used.

It was designed by two Victorian ex-servicemen.

A cenotaph and eternal flame are located out front on the forecourt. The flame has been burning, more or less, since it was lit by the Queen in 1954.

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Colonnade and steps of the Shrine
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Buttress of the Shrine sculpture
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Cenotaph and eternal flame at the Shrine forecourt
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The Shrine's visitor entrance
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Wall of 4,000 service medals awarded to Victorians who have served in the forces - located in the entry foyer

Gallery of Remembrance

When you venture inside and beneath the inner sanctum of the Shrine monument you will enter a wondrous museum of war and historical artefacts. 

The museum is called the Gallery of Remembrance and is not to be missed when you visit the Shrine. The museum resembles an underground labyrinth and you will enjoy wandering the halls and exploring.

So, don’t just come to see the exterior of the Shrine and the surroundings.

Artefacts

The artefacts exhibited date from the 1850’s till the present day, meticulously displayed and detailed. They depict facts and stories of all the wars and peacekeeping tours Australians have been involved in.

The fascinating memorabilia includes uniforms, helmets, equipment, letters, flags, pictures, personal effects, and much more.

There are various videos showing that you can watch, stories being told to listen to and interactive displays too.

The centrepiece of the museum is an original lifeboat from the ship SS Devanha, deployed during the landing at Anzac Cove at the start of the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915.

Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance
An original Gallipoli landing boat of 1915
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John Charlton Memorial Window - Victorians of the Boer War, Sth Africa, 1902
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Displays in the Shrine Museum
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Mates 2012, Kokoda Trail
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Flowers of War wreath
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Gorgeous hand made fabric poppies cascading down the walls - a symbol for those who served and have fallen

In addition, you will find some amazing artwork to appreciate here too.

Browse the stunning contemporary art pieces created by veteran servicemen who use art to express the hardships experienced. 

Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance
Sarbi, the Explosives Detection Dog, and his handler of the Special Forces in Afghanistan - 2014
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Soldier's face in blue light, by Ben Pullen
Back Home, by Sali Herman - 1946
Back Home, by Sali Herman - 1946
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Sexualisation in the armed forces - 1966

Sanctuary and Crypt of Shrine of Remembrance

The interior of the Shrine has a beautiful high-vaulted Sanctuary, with 12 frieze panels of war in action, sculpted in limestone and on the floor of the Sanctuary lies the sacred marble Stone of Remembrance.

The Sanctuary has a cathedral or temple like atmosphere, for peaceful contemplation and reflection. Enjoy spending a little while in here, and be sure to admire its beauty. 

Beneath the Sanctuary is the Crypt adorned with Army Colours, paying homage to the Australian Imperial Force. 

In the centre of the Crypt is the imposing statue of 2 soldiers, a father and a son in WW1 and WW2 uniforms, representing many families who fought in more than one war.

Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance
The Sanctuary of the Shrine
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Engraved Stone of Remembrance sunk below pavement
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Plaque of WW1 inside the Crypt
Shrine of Remembrance
Statue of father and son soldiers from different wars - in the Crypt of the Shrine
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Shrine parklands

Surrounding the Shrine are magnificent parklands of 13 hectares called Kings Domain. The trees here all have commemorative plaques below them dedicated to the various units that have served in wars.

Several imposing war sculptures grace the landscape in well-maintained lawns and garden beds. Large shady trees provide a peaceful place to relax and reflect.   

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Shrine of Remembrance parklands - Kings Domain
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Bronze statue of Private Simpson and his donkey who saved 300 men at Anzac Cove
Shrine of Remembrance
A giant floating red poppy outside
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City views from the Shrine's terrace

The stair climb to the terrace lookout is definitely worth the effort for the magnificent panoramic views of Melbourne you get from each side of the monument.

Walk all the way around the top of the monument and enjoy spotting other landmarks, like the Art Centre Spire, Eureka Tower, Flinders Station Dome,  St Paul’s Cathedral, and even Albert Park Lake and Port Phillip Bay.

Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne
Melbourne city views from the top of the Shrine
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Views from the Shrine's terrace
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Shrine terrace views of Melbourne

Visiting the Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine is a popular attraction with over 1 million people visiting each year, both locals and tourists.

Kids also enjoy the experience and are offered a special explorer’s kit with activities for them to participate in.

Every Sunday morning at 4.45am there is a Last Post Service with Shrine Guards, bagpipes and buglers playing that you can attend.

Anyone can attend the ANZAC Day ( 25th April ) dawn service, the annual commemorative day to honour all service personnel. A truly moving experience.

Free concerts are sometimes held at the Shrine too, such as the Airforce Jazz Band Concert.

I hope you enjoy visiting the Shrine of Remembrance when in Melbourne, whether it be to pay your respects, learn a little history, peruse the art, admire the architecture or enjoy the scenic views.

Information for visiting Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine is easily accessible by tram, car or by foot from the city centre.

Entry is free to all.

Open everyday.

No bookings required.

Hours are 10am to 5pm.

Free parking on nearby streets.

Allow at least 1 hour to tour the whole facility.

Take a virtual tour here.

Check website for more details.

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