The National Monument

The National Monument

The National Monument, Edinburgh

The history of The National Monument

The National Monument, a commanding neoclassical structure on Calton Hill, stands as a tribute to the fallen Scottish soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars. The plan was to make a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, with each stone being exactly the same size as the originals in Greece. Unfortunately less than half of the £42,000 required was raised in a public appeal, and only 12 columns were finished, leading to the monument’s nickname a ‘National Disgrace’.

Cultural significance

The idea of a Scottish National Monument to honour the dead of the Napoleonic Wars was first suggested in 1816. The decision to have a separate monument for Scotland was highly significant culturally and politically. Some argued that the function of commemoration would be more appropriately fulfilled by a single British monument in London. However, following Edinburgh’s more overtly pro-Union stance in the later eighteenth century, it was felt by many that Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, although part of the Empire, should be able to express their individuality and national identity.

Why is it important to Edinburgh?

The monument is a building of very high quality and workmanship, and represents work by two of the early nineteenth century’s most eminent architects, Cockerell and Playfair. Its architectural style contributes to Edinburgh’s reputation as the ‘Athens of the North’.

Key events

On 27th August 1822, during the visit of George IV (who did not attend), there was a foundation ceremony, with construction work starting in 1826.

Additional information

Construction of the National Monument began in 1826, but it was left incomplete when money ran out and the scaffolding came down in 1829.
Despite various suggestions for changing the monument, the people of Edinburgh seem to like it just the way it is – unfinished, but a hugely important element of the city’s skyline.
The National Monument stands majestically on Calton Hill.

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