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The Monument
Fish Street Hill, London EC3, UK
associated engineer
Robert Hooke
date  1671 - 1677
era  Stuart  |  category  Monument, historical  |  reference  TQ328808
At 61.5m high, the Monument is the tallest isolated stone column in the world (2006). The primary reason for its erection was in remembrance of the Great Fire of London, which raged through the City in 1666. However, it was also intended by its designers to have a secondary use as a telescope!
The Monument is made of Portland stone. It consists of a Doric column on a tall pedestal, topped by a square balcony above the column capital, surrounded by a wire cage that protects visitors. At balcony level, the column is surmounted by a stone drum supporting a dome, on top of which is a gilded brass urn with a flaming hemisphere. The flaming urn has a 61cm opening with a hinged lid.
The Latin inscriptions ó composed by Dr Thomas Gale in consultation with Robert Hooke and Sir Christopher Wren ó and relief sculpture around the four sides of the base relate to the fire and the relevance of the monumentís location. The north face reads, Ď In the year of Christ 1666, at a distance eastward of 202ft, which is the height of this column, a fire broke out.í The height of the monument (61.5m or 202ft), therefore, marks the distance to the site of the baker shop in Pudding Lane where the fire started. It goes on to describe the destruction wrought by the fire.
The south side describes the measures undertaken by Charles II and Parliament to restore the city to its former glory. The east side lists the lord mayors who oversaw its erection. The west side is decorated with a relief carving of Charles II coming to the assistance of the city.
The planned use as a telescope had an effect on the final choice of finial for the column. Two other suggestions had been: a phoenix rising from the ashes ;and a statue of Charles II. Neither would have allowed the upper opening as their heads would have been too small.
The Monument was designed to be climbed and has an internal spiral staircase of 311 steps, winding up round a hollow core. It's therefore possible to look up from the monumentís basement room, through the staircase core and the urnís lid, clear to the sky. Inserted lenses turned the core into a zenith telescope. However, its use as a telescope was soon discontinued because of traffic vibration. The structure was not rigid enough for astronomical work.
The design of the column is often attributed to Wren, a close associate of Hooke. However, although Wren was certainly involved, a drawing in the British Library indicates that it was Hooke's design that was built.
Architectural associate: Sir Christopher Wren
Research: RJ
bibliography
"The Monument, or, Christopher Wrenís Roman Accent" by John E. Moore
Art Bulletin, No. 80, 1998
"Robert Hooke, Monuments and Memory" by Christine Stevenson
Art History, February 2005
reference sources   BDCE
Location

The Monument