Sunday, June 03, 2007

Athens of the North

Edinburgh's (actually Scotland's) National Monument was designed as a folly (though this has been questioned), based on Acropolis, Athens - not the result of lack of funds (though see penultimate paragraph).

Built as a National Monument to the Napoleonic Dead, £24,000 was raised by a committee for its construction. Drawings only show exactly what we now see, so the architect C R Cockerell and his assistant William Playfair intended the incomplete appearance.

The National Monument was intended to be a memorial to those who died in the Napoleonic Wars. It is a potent symbol and can be seen both from Princes St and silhouetted from the East such as Gosford Bay near Longniddry with the Castle framed between Calton Hill and Arthurs Seat (recommended viewpoint).

Designed by an English proponent of the Greek Revival architecture, C R Cockrell, The National Monument project was assisted by a young William Henry Playfair who was to go on to complete even more successful works. C.R. Cockerell's most famous building is his St George's Hall, Liverpool which features in most Books covering British Architecture.

The Monument foundations were laid during the visit of King George IV to Edinburgh in 1824. Work came to an end in 1929 when the money provided by public subscription ran out - due in part to the ambitious scale of the monument. While it has been suggested that the architect had deliberately designed only 12 columns of the National Monument, it was later to be described as "Scotland's shame".

The prominent Grecian columns of this and other buildings in Edinburgh has led to Edinburgh being described as the "Athens of the North".

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