Symbols of closure

April 11, 2003

Paul Gough is wrong to say that "not until after the second world war do we find examples of public artworks that are exclusively intended to promulgate ideas of peace" ("Can peace be set in stone?", THES, April 4). One of the oldest such monuments is probably the obelisk that the Geneva Peace Society erected in 1832. Plans for its restoration are under way.

Sweden and Norway celebrated 100 years of unbroken peace between them in August 1914(!) with a large peace monument straddling the border. The bronze "Christ of the Andes" statue, erected ten years earlier between Argentina and Chile, commemorates the successful resolution of a boundary dispute. It indicates that peace monuments, like war monuments, can represent "acts of closure".

Less well known than the Menin Gate in Ypres is the Ijzer Tower in Diksmuide, Belgium, which is dedicated to the abolition of war.

The Peace Palace in The Hague, inaugurated in 1913 as the new home of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, is perhaps the most ambitious attempt to "set peace in stone". Peace is depicted not as an adjunct of victory but of justice.

Peter van den Dungen
Department of peace studies
University of Bradford

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