Stone of Remembrance

Florence Cemetery

The Stone of Remembrance was designed by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens for the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC). [a] It was designed to commemorate the dead of World War I, to be used in IWGC war cemeteries containing 1000 or more graves, or at memorial sites commemorating more than 1000 war dead. Hundreds were erected following World War I, and it has since been used in cemeteries containing the Commonwealth dead of World War II as well. It is intended to commemorate those "of all faiths and none", [1] and has been described as one of Lutyens' "most important and powerful works", [2] with a "brooding, sentinel-like presence wherever used". [2]

Design

The initial thoughts for the design were sent by Lutyens in letters and memoranda in May and August 1917 to Fabian Ware, the founder and head of the Imperial War Graves Commission, before and after the period in which Lutyens and other architects visited the wartime cemeteries in France in July 1917 at the request of Ware, to give their initial thoughts on what should be done to commemorate the dead:

On platforms made of not less than three steps... place one great stone of fine proportion 12 feet long and finely wrot – without undue ornament and tricky and elaborate carvings – and inscribe thereon one thought in clear letters so that all men for all times may read and know the reason why these stones are placed throughout France – facing the West and facing the men who lie looking ever eastward towards the enemy.

— Letter from Lutyens to Ware in May 1917, quoted from Lutyens and the Great War (2009) [3]

Part of the design is the three-stepped platform on which each stone rests. Architectural historian Gavin Stamp, in Silent Cities (1977), quotes further from Lutyen's 1917 correspondence with Ware, where Lutyens describes the proposed stone as:

...one great fair stone of fine proportions, twelve feet in length, lying raised upon three steps, of which the first and third shall be twice the width of the second.

— Memorandum from Lutyens to Ware in August 1917, quoted from Silent Cities (1977) [4]

In a later work in 2006, Stamp identifies a similarly abstract and geometrical concept that was part of Lutyens' creative process, citing a letter that Lutyens wrote to his wife while on the July 1917 visit to France, describing how a 'solid ball of bronze' could be used to make a permanent monument. [5]

By the time of Ware's 1937 report, published as The Immortal Heritage the same year, some 560 Stones of Remembrance had been erected for World War I cemeteries and memorials in France and Belgium alone. [5]

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