National World War II Memorial (Washington, D.C., U.S.A.)

National World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial, an American memorial of national significance, sits on a 30,000 m2  (7.4-acre) piece of land (two-thirds of which is landscaping and water) on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The granite pillars

The memorial is dedicated to those who served in the armed forces and as civilians during World War II. It consists of 56 5.2 m. (17 ft.) tall granite pillars,  arranged in a semicircle, and a pair of small 13 m. (43-ft.) high memorial triumphal arches (crafted by Rock of Ages Corporation, the northern arch is inscribed with “Atlantic,” the southern one, “Pacific“), on opposite sides, surrounding a plaza and fountain.

The author with the Atlantic Arch in the background

Its design was based on Friedrich St. Florian‘s initial design, selected in 1997 during a nationwide design competition that drew 400 submissions from architects from around the country but altered during the review and approval process. On September 2001, ground was broken and the construction was managed by the General Services Administration.

The Pacific Arch

Opened on April 29, 2004, it was dedicated by President George W. Bush on May 29, 2004. On November 1, 2004, the memorial became a national park  when authority over it was transferred to the National Park Service (under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group). As of 2009, more than 4.4 million people visit the memorial each year. In 2012, the memorial’s fountain was renovated.

The memorial’s fountain

Each of the 56 pillars, all consisting of oak (symbolizing military and industrial strength) laurel wreaths and wheat (symbolizing agricultural and breadbasket during the U.S. part in the war) laurel wreath. is inscribed with the name of one of the 48 U.S. states (as of 1945), as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska TerritoryTerritory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the PhilippinesPuerto RicoGuamAmerican Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The pillar of the Commonwealth of the Philippines

The plaza is 102.97 m. (337 ft., 10 in.) long and 73.2 m. (240 ft., 2 in.) wide and is sunk 1.8 m. (6 ft.) below grade.  It contains a pool that is 75.2 × 45 m. (246 ft., 9 in. by 147 ft., 8 in.). The memorial also includes two, inconspicuously located “Kilroy was here” engravings which acknowledges the significance of the symbol to American soldiers during World War II and how it represented their presence and protection wherever it was inscribed.

Excerpt from a speech by Pres. Harry S. Truman

Excerpt from Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech

The lettering for the memorial was designed by the John Stevens Shop and most of the inscriptions were hand-carved in situ. Laran Bronze, in Chester, Pennsylvania, cast all the bronzes over the course of two and a half years.

Some of the inscriptions

The Battle of Midway

The baldacchinos of the Pacific and Atlantic Arches each have laurel wreaths suspended in the air, with 4 bronze eagles carrying it, all created by sculptor Raymond Kaskey. The stainless-steel armature that holds up the eagles and wreaths was designed at Laran, in part by sculptor James Peniston, and fabricated by Apex Piping of Newport, Delaware. The chandelier sculpture symbolizes the victory of the War with the Nation’s bird carrying a Grecian symbol of victory but with an American adaptation of oak laurel wreaths to symbolize strength.

Seal using the World War II Victory Medal design

On approaching the semicircle from the east, I walked along one of two walls (right side wall and left side wall) with 24 bronze bas-relief panels (also created by sculptor Raymond Kaskey) that depict wartime scenes of combat and the home front. The scenes, as I approached on the left (toward the Pacific Arch), begin with soon-to-be servicemen getting their physical exams, taking the oath, being issued military gear, and progresses through several iconic scenes, including combat and burying the dead, ending in a homecoming scene.

The memorial flagpole

There is a similar progression on the right-side wall (toward the Atlantic arch) but the scenes are generally more typical of the European theatre with some scenes taking place in England, depicting the preparations for air and sea assaults. The last scene is of a handshake between the American and Russian armies when the western and eastern fronts met in Germany.

The Price of Freedom

The Freedom Wall, on the west side of the memorial, has a view of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial behind it. The wall has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. In front of the wall lies the message “Here we mark the price of freedom”

Jandy at the fountain area

National World War II Memorial: National MallWashington, D.C.

District of Columbia War Memorial (Washington, D.C., U.S.A.)

The District of Columbia War Memorial, a memorial within the National Mall (the only local District memorial there)commemorating the citizens of the District of Columbia who served, fought and gave their lives in World War I, stands in in a grove of trees at West Potomac Park (the first war memorial to be erected in the park), near the Lincoln Memorial and slightly off of Independence Avenue.

District of Columbia War Memorial

Authorized by a June 7, 1924 act of Congress, funds for the memorial’s construction were provided by the contributions of both organizations and individual citizens of the District. In the spring of 1931, construction of the memorial, designed by Washington architect Frederick H. Brooke, with Horace W. Peaslee and Nathan C. Wyeth as associate architects, began and the memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1931, Armistice Day, by Pres. Herbert Hoover.

Dedication inscription

This 14.3 m. (47-ft.) tall circular, domed, peristyle Doric temple rests on concrete foundations. Its 1.2 m. (4 ft.) high marble base defines a 13.2 m. (43 ft., 5 in.) diameter platform, intended for use as a bandstand. Preserved in the cornerstone is a list of 26,000 Washingtonians who served in the World War I while inscribed on the base are the names of the 499 citizens who lost their lives in the war, together with medallions representing the branches of the armed forces. Twelve 6.7 m. (22-ft.) high, fluted Doric marble columns support the entablature and dome.

List of those who died

Restoration work, funded with US$7.3 million provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, began in October 2010. The lighting systems were improved, water drainage systems were corrected and the landscape was revived to allow the memorial to be used as a bandstand. On November 10, 2011, the memorial reopened. In 2014, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The memorial is administered by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks unit.

How to Get There: The DC War Memorial is located just west of 17th St. and Independence Ave. SW, next to the World War II Memorial. The closest Metro station is Smithsonian.

Korean War Veterans Memorial (Washington, D.C., U.S.A.)

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial, located southeast of the Lincoln Memorial and just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, commemorates those who served in the Korean War. Our afternoon visit here coincided with the state visit of South Korean Pres. Moon Jae-In and we saw the wreaths he and US Vice-Pres Mike Pence laid at the memorial just this morning.

Wreath laid by South Korean Pres. Moon Jae-In

Wreath laid by US Vice-Pres. Mike Pence

Designed by Cooper-Lecky Architects, who oversaw collaboration between several designers, the Korean War Veterans Memorial’s design and construction was managed by the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board and the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Jandy at Korean War Veterans Memorial

On June 14, 1993, Flag Day, the groundbreaking for the Memorial was conducted by President George H. W. Bush. Faith Construction Company, the Richard Sherman Company, the Cold Spring Granite Company, the Tallix Art Foundry and the Baltimore District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the companies and organizations involved in the construction, are listed on the memorial.

Statues designed by sculptor Frank Gaylord

On July 27, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war, the memorial was dedicated by President Bill Clinton and Republic of Korea President Kim Young Sam, to the men and women who served during the conflict.  On the day of its dedication, the memorial was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the management of the memorial was then turned over to the National Park Service, under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group.

The main memorial, in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle, has 50 m. (164 ft.) long, 200 mm (8 in.) thick walls; more than 100 tons of highly polished “Academy Black” granite from California; and more than 2,500 photographic, archival images (representing the land, sea, and air troops who supported those who fought in the war) sandblasted onto the wall. The Mural, created by Louis Nelson, has photographic images sandblasted into it depicting soldiers, equipment and people involved in the war. When reflected on the wall, there appear to be 38 soldiers, 38 months, and it is also representing the 38 parallel that separated the North and South Korea.

The Mural of Louis Nelson

Within the walled triangle are 19 stainless steel larger than life-size statues designed by Frank Gaylord, each between 2.21 m. (7 ft., 3 in.) and 2.29 m. (7 ft., 6 in) tall; and each weighs nearly 500 kgs. (1,000 lbs.). The figures, representing a platoon on patrol, were drawn from each branch of the armed forces – 14 from the U.S. Army, 3 from the Marine Corps, one is a Navy Corpsman, and one is an Air Force Forward Air Observer.  All are dressed in full combat gear and dispersed among strips of granite and juniper bushes which represent the rugged terrain of Korea.

Pool of Remembrance

The United Nations Wall, a low wall to the north of the statues and path, lists the 22 members of the United Nations that contributed troops or medical support to the Korean War effort.  The Pool of Remembrance, a shallow, 9 m. (30 ft.) diameter pool lined with black granite, is surrounded by a grove of linden trees (shaped to create a barrel effect, which allows the sun to reflect on the pool) with benches.

The numbers of dead

The numbers of wounded

Inscriptions list the numbers killed, wounded, missing in action and held as prisoners of war.  A nearby plaque is inscribed: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” Additionally, right next to the numbers of American soldiers, are those of the United Nations troops in the same categories. Three bushes of the Rose of Sharon hibiscus plant, South Korea’s national flower, are at the south side of the memorial. A further granite wall bears the simple message, inlaid in silver: “Freedom Is Not Free.”

Freedom is not Free

Korean War Veterans Memorial: 900 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine – Birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner (Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historical Shrine

This historical American coastal pentagonal bastion fort is best known for its role in the War of 1812, when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from the September 13–14, 1814 attack by the British navy from Chesapeake Bay. The fort, a prominent tourist destination, is visited each year by thousands of visitors who come to see the “Birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner.”

Entrance to Fort McHenry

It’s also a popular spot for Baltimoreans to run, walk their dogs, enjoy a picnic or just sit by the waters of Chesapeake Bay  and enjoy the breeze and views of the city.

View of Baltimore Harbor as seen from the fort

Listed are some interesting trivia regarding the fort:

  • This was named after early American statesman James McHenry (November 16, 1753 – May 3, 1816), a Scots-Irish immigrant and surgeon-soldier who was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Maryland and a signer of the United States Constitution. Afterwards, he was appointed United States Secretary of War (1796–1800), serving under Presidents George Washington and John Adams.
  • Fort McHenry was built on the site of the former Fort Whetstone which stood on Whetstone Point (today’s residential and industrial area of Locust Point) peninsula, which juts into the opening of Baltimore Harbor between the Basin (today’s Inner Harbor) and Northwest branch on the north side and the Middle and Ferry (now Southern) branches of the Patapsco River on the south side. The fort defended Baltimore from 1776 to 1797.
  • The new fort, built to improve the defenses of the increasingly important Port of Baltimore from future enemy attacks, is a bastioned pentagon, surrounded by a dry moat (a deep, broad trench) that served as a shelter from which infantry might defend the fort from a land attack. In case of such an attack on this first line of defense, each point, or bastion could provide a crossfire of cannon and small arms fire.
  • During the War of 1812, the 5.2 m. × 7.6 m. (17 ft. by 25 ft.) storm flag flown over Fort McHenry during the bombardment was replaced early on the morning of September 14, 1814 with a larger 9.1 m. × 12.8 m. (30 ft. by 42 ft.) garrison flag, sewn by Mary Pickersgill for $405.90, which signaled American victory over the British in the Battle of Baltimore. Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer who had come to Baltimore to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes, a civilian prisoner of war, witnessed the bombardment from a nearby truce ship. The sight of the ensign inspired him  to write the poem “Defense of Fort M’Henry.” The poem was later set to the tune “To Anacreon in Heaven” and become known as the “Star Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States.
  • It has become national tradition that when a new flag is designed, it first flies over Fort McHenry. The first official 49- and 50-star American flags were flown over the fort. The flags are still located on the premises.
  • In the event of a national emergency, the United States Codecurrently authorizes Fort McHenry’s closure to the public for use by the military for the duration of such an emergency.
  • Every September, the City of Baltimore commemorates Defenders Day in honor of the Battle of Baltimore. It is the biggest celebration of the year at the fort, it is accompanied by a weekend of programs, events and fireworks.
  • In 2013, under the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine was honored with its own quarter.

The barracks

Here is a timeline of the fort’s history:

  • Designed by Frenchman Jean Foncin in 1798, the fort was built between 1798 and 1800.
  • During World War I, in order to convert the entire facility into an enormous U.S. Army hospital for the treatment of troops returning from the European conflict, an additional one hundred odd buildings (only a few of them remain) were built on the land surrounding the fort.
  • On September 13, 1814, beginning at 6 AM, British warships, under the command of Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane, continuously bombarded Fort McHenry, under the command of Major George Armistead (April 10, 1780 – April 25, 1818) of the 3rd Regiment of U. S. Artillery, for 25 hours. The British ships were unable to pass Fort McHenry and penetrate Baltimore Harbor because of its defenses which included a chain of 22 sunken ships and the American’s 8, 11 and 16 kg. (18, 24 and 32-pounder) cannons.  The British guns had a range of 3 kms. (2 miles) and their rockets had a 2.8 km. (1.75-mile) range, neither of which, fired at maximum range, were accurate. At one point during the bombardment, a bomb crashed through the fort’s powder magazine but,  fortunately for the Americans, either the rain extinguished the fuse or the bomb was a dud.
  • On the morning of September 14, the British, having depleted their ammunition, ceased their attack. Only one British warship, a bomb vessel, received a direct hit from the fort’s return fire, which wounded one crewman. The Americans lost four killed (including Private William Williamsan African-American soldier, and a woman who was cut in half by a bomb as she carried supplies to the troops) and 24 wounded.
  • During the American Civil War, Fort McHenry served as a military prison, confining  Confederate soldiers as well as a large number of Maryland political figures (including newly elected Baltimore Mayor George William Brown, the city council, the new police commissioner, George P. Kane; members of the Maryland General Assembly; several newspaper editors and owners; John Eager Howard,(local hero of the Revolutionary War; and Francis Scott Key‘s grandson, Francis Key Howard) who were suspected of being Confederate At this time, Fort McHenry also served to train artillery (hence the Rodman guns presently located and displayed at the fort).
  • During World War II, Fort McHenry was leased to the Coast Guard for port security work and as a fire training station aboard ships for nearly 28,000 U.S. Coast Guardsmen.
  • In 1925, the fort was made a national park
  • In 1931, the fort was finally deactivated and transferred to the National Park Service .
  • On August 11, 1939, it was redesignated a “National Monument and Historic Shrine, the only such doubly designated place in the United States.
  • On October 15, 1966, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • On September 10–16, 2014, the Star Spangled Spectacular was held at Fort McHenry to celebrate the bicentennial of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. The event included a parade of tall ships, a large fireworks show and the US Navy’s Blue Angels.

The Visitor Center

The kid-friendly Visitor Center has a Park Ranger-staffed information desk, book and souvenir store, a large museum, restrooms and a meeting place for Ranger programs.

The Park Ranger-staffed information desk

The kid-friendly Visitor Center has a Park Ranger-staffed information desk, book and souvenir store, a large museum, restrooms and a meeting place for Ranger programs.

Francis Scott Key and the Birth of the Star Spangled Banner. At right is the original draft of the song

The museum is divided into three main areas of interest. The first section, “Francis Scott Key and the Birth of the Star Spangled Banner,” is devoted to Francis Scott Key, the Star Spangled Banner, and the flag. An interactive touch-screen presentation details Key’s schedule leading up to his writing of the poem.

The Star Spangled Banner and the War of 1812.  At the right is a uniform, 2 muskets (one with bayonet), powder horn and personal items of a soldier

The second area of the museum, where I spent about an hour, focused on the War of 1812. Its interactive touch-screen presentation, a key exhibit, allowed me to read about every battle in the war. Also on exhibit are military memorabilia such as uniforms and a cannon as well as personal items used by soldiers.

A cannon

A second section of the museum covers the Battle of Baltimore, with its centerpiece being a 10-minute film about the Battle of Baltimore, a combination of live action and CGI animated battle maps, and ends with an inspirational rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” with the audience standing and singing along, as the curtain rises to reveal the flag at Fort McHenry outside.

L-R: Kyle, Cheska and Grace.  Behind is a copy of the original storm flag of the garrison

Film showings occur at the top of every hour and every half hour and its movie screen is part of the overall museum.  During the showing,  the lights were turned down, rendering the rest of the museum essentially shut down during this time. Only the exhibits that are backlit, such as the interactive touch-screens, can be seen.

Jandy at the entrance of the fort

The actual wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly fort is just a short walk from the Visitor Center.  Outside the fort were re-enacters such as women hand washing the service men’s clothes, sewing a flag and learning how to write on slate boards. Inside were probably a dozen servicemen in full dress and carrying muskets.

Women re-enacters

Servicemen in uniform

Within the fort are exhibits on a variety of topics relating to the fort and its history such as the restored Commander’s Quarters, Junior Officers’ Quarters, Guard House and the Enlisted Men’s Quarters, all mainly devoted to garrison life during its most famous period of the War of 1812; the Gunpowder Magazine  as well as the restored flag pole.  The flag flown here is not the size of the fabled Star-Spangled Banner, but is a garrison flag that is four sizes smaller. 

George Armistead

Junior Officers’ Quarters

Outside the fort proper is a reconstruction of the Upper Battery which, during the 1814 attack, was largely manned by volunteer militia artillerymen and merchant seamen (from ships within blockaded Baltimore Harbor) and armed with large-caliber smooth bore guns mounted on naval trucks or garrison carriages. They had wooden trucks with iron wheels and, to prevent their excessive recoil when fired, were attached to the wall by rope cables. 

Upper Battery

The fort also boasts a fine collection of mid-nineteenth century artillery pieces. The Lower Battery, with brick-reinforced earthen rampart (replacing the earth-and-wooden one of the War of 1812), have circa 1875 15-inch Rodman smoothbore guns of Civil War vintage that were sleeved with rifled inserts.

The author with the Rodman cannons in the background

Adjacent to Fort McHenry lies a monument of Orpheus that is dedicated to the soldiers of the fort and Francis Scott Key.

Monument of Orpheus by Charles Niehaus

Statue of Col. George Armistead

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine: 2400 East Fort Ave, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, USA. Tel: +1-410-962-4290. Open daily, 9 AM – 6 PM (5 PM in the winter), closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission: adults (US$10), children 15 years old and younger (free).

How to Get There: The fort is easily accessible by water taxi from the popular Baltimore Inner Harbor. However, to prevent abuse of the parking lots at the Fort, the National Park Service does not permit passengers to take the water taxi back to the Inner Harbor unless they have previously used it to arrive at the monument.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum (New York City, U.S.A.)

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (also known as the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum), located at the former location of the Twin Towers (destroyed during the September 11 attacks) at the World Trade Center site, are the principal memorial and museum, respectively, that commemorate the September 11, 2001 attacks, which killed 2,977 victims, and the World Trade Center bombing of 1993, which killed six.

September 11 Memorial Plaza

The memorial was designed by Israeli architect Michael Arad (whose Reflecting Absence, on January 2004,was selected as the winner, from among 5,201 entries from 63 countries, of the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition) of Handel Architects, a New York- and San Francisco-based firm, who worked with landscape-architecture firm Peter Walker and Partners on the design.

Layout of Memorial Plaza

Featuring a forest of trees with two square pools in the center where the Twin Towers stood, its design was consistent with the original Daniel Libeskind master plan which called for the memorial to be 9.1 m (30 ft.) below street level (originally 21 m./70 ft.) in a plaza. Started on August 2006, the memorial was dedicated on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks, an was opened to the public the following day. The museum was dedicated on May 15, 2014 and opened on May 21.

South Pool

Two 4,000 m2 (1 acre) pools, with the largest man-made waterfalls (intended to mute the sounds of the city, making the site a contemplative sanctuary) in the United States, comprise the footprints of the Twin Towers, symbolizing the loss of life and the physical void left by the attacks. Delta Fountains engineered the fountain. Many parts of the memorial were planted by Walker with white oaks while almost 400 sweet gum and swamp white oak trees fill the remaining 24,000 m2 (6 acres) of the Memorial Plaza, enhancing the site’s reflective nature.

Parapet on wall with bronze plates inscribed with victims’ names

The parapets of the walls of the memorial pools are attached with 76 bronze plates inscribed with the names, arranged according to an algorithm, of 2,983 victims – 2,977 killed in the September 11 attacks and six killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Flower offering for one of the victims

Around the perimeter of the North Pool are the names of the employees and visitors in the North Tower (WTC 1), the passengers and crew of American Airlines Flight 11 (which struck the North Tower), and the 5 employees and a visitor, all adults, of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, all memorialized on Panel N-73.

North Pool

Around the perimeter of the South Pool are the names of the employees and visitors in the South Tower (WTC 2), the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 175 (which struck the South Tower), the employees, visitors, and bystanders in the immediate vicinity of the North and South Towers, the first responders (listed with their units) who died during rescue operations, the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 (which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania) and American Airlines Flight 77 (which struck the Pentagon), and the employees at the Pentagon.

Though company names are not included, the company employees and visitors are listed together. Passengers on the 2 United Airlines and 2 American Airline flights are listed under their flight numbers. The phrase “and her unborn child” follows the names of ten pregnant women who died on 9/11 and one who died in the 1993 attack.

Survivor Tree

The “Survivor Tree,” a symbol of hope and rebirth, is a 2.4 m.( 8-ft.) tall callery pear tree (planted during the 1970s near Buildings 4 and 5, in the vicinity of Church St.) which was recovered, badly burned with one living branch, from the rubble at the World Trade Center site on October 2001. Nursed back to health by the Bronx nursery, the then 9.1 m. (30 ft.) tall tree was returned, on December 2010, to the World Trade Center site and is now a prominent part of the memorial.

September 11 Memorial Museum

The September 11 Memorial Museum, dedicated on May 15, 2014 and opened to the public on May 21, was built at the former location of Fritz Koenig‘s The Sphere, a large metallic sculpture placed in the middle of a large pool between the Twin Towers.  Designed by Davis Brody Bond, the museum, about 21 m. (70 ft.) below ground and accessible through a pavilion designed by Snøhetta,  encloses 10,000 m2 (110,000 sq. ft.) of publicly accessible space. Its exhibits include 23,000 images, 10,300 artifacts (including wrecked emergency vehicles, two tridents from the Twin Towers and pieces of metal from all seven World Trade Center buildings including the last piece of steel to leave Ground Zero in May 2002), nearly 2,000 oral histories of those killed  (mostly provided by friends and families) and over 500 hours of video.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum: 180 Greenwich St, New York City, New York 10007. Open daily, 7:30 AM – 9 PM. Admission: US$24/adult, children below 12 years old is free.

Mactan Shrine (Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu)

Mactan Shrine.  On the left is the small building housing two plaques while on the right is the Magellan Monument

Part 4 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

This shrine is dedicated in honor of Lapu-Lapu (the Philippines’ first National Hero) and the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and was erected on the supposed spot where the Battle of Mactan (April 27, 1521) took place. The shrine has three prominent monuments

Lapu-Lapu Monument

The 20-ft. high Lapu-Lapu Monument, beside the shore, features a bronze statue, on a pedestal, of Datu Lapu-Lapu, sculpted with great realism, holding a kampilan (curved sword) on his right hand and a shield on the left.  The Magellan Marker, shaped like a large headstone, allegedly marks the spot where Magellan fell dead in the hands of Lapu-Lapu’s men.

Magellan Monument

A little farther away is the 30-ft. high Magellan Monument, on a base of several levels and surrounded by a low fence. It consists of plain, coralstone obelisk, on whose apex rests a sphere, mounted on a tall plinth that rests on a tripartite structure – an octagonal base, on which rests a tall quadrilateral structure, divided into a lower part, decorated with high relieves of vases, and an upper part pierced by narrow arches.

Relief of a vase

The monument is inscribed with texts. On one side is A Hernando de Magallanes, Ferdinand Magellan’s name written in the original Portuguese language.

Inscription with Magellan’s name

On a second side is the phrase Glorias Españolas (“Glory to Spain”),  on the third is the phrase Siendo Gobernaor Don Miguel Creus (the Spanish governor of the Philippines at the time) and on the fourth side is the phrase 1866 Reinando Ysabel II (the Spanish monarch at that time).

Inscription with Gov. Miguel Creus’s name

The monument was said to have been built in 1866 during the administration of Augustinian Fr. Simon Aguirre, who was cura (parish priest), from 1857 to 1871, of Opon (the old name of Lapu-Lapu City).

The plinth with two plaques

Between the Lapu-Lapu and Magellan monuments stands the Philippine flag.  East of the Magellan Monument is a small building housing a plinth flanked by plaques.

The Lapu-Lapu plaque

The plaque about Lapu-Lapu (installed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1951) reads:

Lapulapu

Here on 27 April 1521, Lapulapu and his men repulsed the Spanish invaders, killing their leader Ferdinand Magellan thus Lapu Lapu became the first Filipino to have repelled European aggression.

The plaque about Magellan’s death

The other plaque about Ferdinand Magellan (installed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1941) reads:

Ferdinand Magellan’s Death

On this spot Ferdinand Magellan died on April 27, 1521 wounded in an encounter with the soldiers of Lapu Lapu, Chief of Mactan Islands. One of Magellan’s ships, The Victoria, under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, sailed from Cebu on May 1, 1521 and anchored at San Lucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522 thus completing the first circumnavigation of the earth.

The huge mural painting

Behind the plinth is a huge mural painting depicting the battle. The Battle of Mactan is reenacted along the shores near the shrine during the 27 April Kadaugan sa Mactan Festival.

The Kadaugan sa Mactan re-enactment site

Mactan Shrine: Punta Engano, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

Regina RICA (Tanay, Rizal)

Regina RICA

Regina RICA

The 13.5-hectare Regina RICA, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites here in the Philippines, was established in 2009 by Sr. Mary Epifania “Eppie” F. Brasil, OP (founder of the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii On May 13, 2005 in Quezon City). The sisters holds dear the words of Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”

Handumanan

Handumanan

Their primary mission is to teach as many people as they can about contemplative prayer and the contemplative way of life.  This wonderful place of prayer, pilgrimage and peace is not a park or a recreational activity area.  Rather, it is for those seeking to experience God.

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Handumanan, the first place that will welcome you upon entering, has a souvenir shop, visitor center (where names are entered in the registration folder at the counter), a booth where you can write petitions and a donation area.  RICA volunteers here also orient visitors of the do’s and dont’s while exploring the Regina RICA.

Our Lady of Regina RICA

Our Lady of Regina RICA

The hilltop Regina RICA‘s centerpiece is the iconic, 71-ft. high statue of Our Lady of Regina Rica, a sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus made by the artist/sculptor, Jose “Jojo” Barcena Jr..

Happy angel

Smiling sculptured angel

Below her feet is a canopy of clouds with 17 sculptured angels – 16 smiling and the 17th, inside the mantle, which is the crying (symbolizing sorrow for the sins we commit).

The author

The author

Inside the statue is an adoration chapel called SULOD (Sanctuary of Universal Love and Devotion), Regina RICA’s sanctuary of universal love and devotion chapel. Sulod is an Ilonggo word (the sisters are mostly Ilongga) meaning “enter.”

S Trail at El Shaddai Hills

S Trail at El Shaddai Hills

Just like a pilgrim, the best way to experience Regina RICA is by foot. However, for those who can’t walk inside the facility, there are also shuttle vans or golf carts (PhP5 per pax) that can take visitors, from the gate, to the chapel and all the way to the SULOD on top of the hill and back down again.

Brick

Brick with footprints of those who gave their love offerings

There are 2 ways to get to Our Lady of Regina RICA and its SULOD.  First, you can take Mary’s S (sacred) Trail at El Shaddai Hills, a pathway of 308 steps trail made with bricks (some with footprints of those who gave their love offering) that leads directly to the icon. Here, you have a great view of the RICA Chapel just below the hill.

Candle Station

Candle Station

Second, you can follow the Way of the Cross, 14 stations that leads you along a winding road that also leads you to the icon on top of the hill but also tours you to Regina RICA’s other facilities – the Organic Gardens, Regina RICA Chapel, San Jose Rotonda (has a 13-ft. high statue of St. Joseph looking at his family), 13 Candle Stands, Koi Pond, Flower Gardens, Kakahuyan and Sunflower Trail.

Regina RICA Chapel

Regina RICA Chapel

 

Interior of chapel

Interior of chapel

Upon reaching SULOD, visitors are briefed on what they should do and observe once you enter the adoration area. They will also provide information and history about the Regina RICA, future and current projects and more.  After the briefing, visitors will be prompted to go upstairs where a sister of the congregation will invite them to join a short yet spiritually enlightening prayer and meditation in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, after which they will be guided to the exit so they can accommodate the next batch.

Orientation inside SULOD

Orientation inside SULOD

At the Pilgrim’s Labyrinth, visitors are encouraged to slowly follow the path all the way to the center (where they can offer their prayers and meditate) and also the path to go out. On its left side is a gazebo called Tilipunan (from the Ilonggo word meaning “gathering place”).

Pilgrim's Labyrinth

Pilgrim’s Labyrinth

Tilipunan

Tilipunan

There are  candle houses with candles (PhP20 each) in various colors, which represent different intentions – red for courage, blue for peace, green for hope, orange for good health, violet for financial prosperity, brown for safe trip/good job, aqua for thanksgiving, yellow for joy/friend, white for success, rose for love/family and all of the above for abundance.

Candle House

Candle House

The  Pahuwayan sa RICA Columbary and Ossuary is another interesting work of art of Jojo Barcena Jr.

Pahuwayan

Pahuwayan sa RICA Columbary and Ossuary

Columbary entrance

Columbary entrance

Regina RICA also has a  dozens of gazebos, bahay kubo, tents, some animals, livestock,  at least 3 waterfalls, a creek, a set of 10,000 trees and a vegetarian-themed restaurant (Pasilungan) at  a place called Handong (an Ilonggo word meaning “shade”).

Pasilungan

Pasilungan

Regina Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia:   Marikina-Infanta Highway, Sitio Aguho, Brgy. Sampaloc, Tanay Rizal. Open daily (except  Tuesdays), 8 AM to 5 PM. Admission: free. Parking fee: PhP50. Tel: (+02) 985-3878 and (+02) 401-2036. Mobile  number: (0919) 269-4286. E-mail: reginarica@yahoo.com. Website: www.reginarica.org.

Schedule of Masses
Mondays-Saturdays – 11 AM (except Tuesdays)
Sundays – 11 AM and  3:30 PM
Every 4th Saturday of the month: 6 AM

To attend to the pilgrims’ need for silence and respect the sanctity and cleanliness of the area, each one is required to be on their best behavior when they are inside the sacred place.  There is also a dress code – no short shorts sleeveless blouses, spaghetti straps and too revealing upper garments.  If you are wearing inappropriate clothing, you can borrow long skirts and shawls in stores inside the place. Visitors are required to take off their shoes once they enter SULOD. You can take pictures anywhere inside the whole facility except inside SULOD.

Tanay Tourism Office: G/F, New Tanay Municipal Hall, M. H. del Pilar St., Tanay, Rizal 1980.  Tel: (02) 7361059 and (02) 6551773 loc 212-213.  Mobile number: (0998) 988-1590. E-mail: tanaytourism11@gmail.com. Website: www.tanay.gov.ph.

Colosseum (Rome, Italy)

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

The oval, entirely free-standing Colosseum or Coliseum,  an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome, is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Following the reign of Nero, it was began by emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and completed in AD 80 by his son and successor Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Vespasian’s younger son Domitian (81–96).

The outer wall

The outer wall

It has suffered extensDSC00278ive damage over the centuries, with large segments having collapsed following earthquakes. In 217, the wooden upper levels of the amphitheater’s interior was destroyed by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio Cassius) and was not fully repaired until about 240.  Further repairs were done in 250 or 252 and again in 320. Gladiatorial fights are. Various parts of the Colosseum were restored under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (reigned 425–455), possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in 443.  More work followed in 484 and 508.

 

The outer wall (left) and the nearly intact inner wall

The outer wall (left) and the nearly intact inner wall

The great 1349 earthquake severely damaged the Colosseum.  The outer south side, lying on a less stable alluvial terrDSC00283ain, collapsed and much of the tumbled stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. The interior of the amphitheater was extensively stripped of stone, which was reused elsewhere.  The marble façade was burned to make quicklime. The bronze clamps, used to hold the stonework together, were pried or hacked out of the walls, leaving numerous pockmarks which still scar the building today.

 

The Colosseum interior

The Colosseum interior

In 1807 and 1827, the façade was reinforced with triangular brick wedges and, in 1831, 1846 and in the 1930s, the interior was repaired. In 1810–1814 and 1874, the arena substructure was partly excavated and, in the 1930s, was fully exposed under Benito Mussolini. Between 1993 and 2000, due to the effects of pollution and general deterioration over time, a major restoration program was carried out at a cost of 40 billion Italian lire ($19.3 million/ €20.6 million at 2000 prices).

The raked areas that once held seating

The raked areas that once held seating

Here are some interesting facts and trivia regarding the Colosseum:

  • Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built.
  • One of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, it receives millions of visitors annually.
  • Elliptical in plan, it is 189 m. (615 ft./640 Roman ft.) long, 156 m. (510 ft./528 Roman ft.) wide and has a base area of 24,000 sq. m. (6 acres). Its outer wall is 48 m. (157 ft./165 Roman ft.) high. Its perimeter originally measured 545 m. (1,788 ft./1,835 Roman ft.). The central arena is an oval 87 m. (287 ft.) long and 55 m. (180 ft.) wide, surrounded by a wall 5 m. (15 ft.) high, above which rose tiers of seating. The arena itself was 83 m. by 48 m. (272 ft. by 157 ft./280 by 163 Roman ft.).
  • Its outer wall was estimated to have required over 100,000 cu. m. (3,531,467 cubic ft.) of travertine stone which were set without mortar and  held together by 300 tons of iron clamps.
  • According to the Codex-Calendar of 354, the Colosseum could accommodate 87,000 spectators, although modern estimates put the figure at between 50,000 and 80,000, having an average audience of some 65,000.
  • The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests (last mentioned around 435) and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts (continued until at least 523, when Anicius Maximus celebrated his consulship with some venationes), executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.
  • In the Early Medieval era, the building ceased to be used for entertainment but numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were later reused for housing and workshops.  It was also reused as a fortress (around 1200 by the Frangipani family), quarters for a Christian religious order (from mid-14th century until as late as the early 19th century), a quarry (stones from the Colosseum were taken for the building of other sacred sites), and a Christian shrine (in 1749, by Pope Benedict XIV).
  • The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.
  • The Colosseum has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment. The color of the Colosseum’s night time illumination changes from white to gold whenever a person condemned to the death penalty anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released,or if a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty (most recently on November 2012, following the abolition of capital punishment in the American state of Connecticut in April 2012).
  • Large concerts, using the Colosseum as a backdrop, have been held just outside. They included  concerts o Ray Charles (May 5, 2002), Paul McCartney (May 11,  2003), Elton John (September 3, 2005), and Billy Joel (July 31, 2006).
Cross dedicated to the Christian martyrs, placed in 2000 by Pope John Paul II

Cross dedicated to the Christian martyrs, placed in 2000 by Pope John Paul II

The iconic Colosseum has been featured in numerous films:

Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday

Demetrius and the Gladiators

Demetrius and the Gladiators

Colosseum seating

Colosseum seating

The remainder of the present-day exterior of the Colosseum is, in fact, the original interior wall. The surviving part of its monumental façade comprises three stories of superimposed arcades framed by half-columns of the DoricIonic, and Corinthian orders and surmounted by a podium on which stands a tall attic decorated with Corinthian pilasters, both of which are pierced by windows interspersed at regular intervals. At the second- and third-floor arcades, arches framed statues, probably honoring divinities and other figures from Classical mythology. The north side of the perimeter wall, though still standing, has distinctive triangular brick wedges at each end that are modern additions, having been constructed in the early 19th century to shore up the wall.

Maenianum Primum

Maenianum Primum

Positioned around the top of the attic are 240 mast corbels that originally supported a retractable awning,known as the velarium (a canvas-covered, net-like structure made of ropes, with a hole in the center), that kept the sun and rain off spectators over two-thirds of the arena and sloped down towards the center to catch the wind and provide a breeze for the audience. Working on the velarium are sailors specially enlisted from the Roman naval headquarters at Misenum and housed in the nearby Castra Misenatium.

Maenianum Secundum

Maenianum Secundum

DSC00299The amphitheater was ringed by 80 numbered outer entrances, many of which have disappeared with the collapse of the perimeter wall (only entrances XXIII to LIV still survive) at ground level, 76 of which were used by ordinary spectators.  All four axial entrances, richly decorated with painted stucco reliefs (of which fragments survive) consisted of a northern main entrance  reserved for the Roman Emperor and his aides and three other axial entrances most likely used by the elite. Special boxes at the north and south ends, for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins, provide the best views of the arena. They were provided with separate tunnels to permit them to enter and exit the Colosseum without needing to pass through the crowds. A broad platform or podium, for the senatorial class (they  were allowed to bring their own chairs), flanked them at the same level

Maenianum Secundum in Legneis

Maenianum Secundum in Legneis

Fragment of an ancient Roman equestrian statue

Fragment of an ancient Roman equestrian statue

The maenianum primum, the tier above the senators, was occupied by the non-senatorial noble class or knights (equites) while the next level up, divided into two sections, is the maenianum secundum, originally reserved for ordinary Roman citizens (plebeians). The lower part (the immum) was reserved for wealthy citizens while the upper part (the summum) was for poor citizens. The maenianum secundum in legneis, a level added at the very top of the building during the reign of Domitian (either standing room only or having very steep wooden benches), was a gallery for the common poor, slaves and women. Gravediggers, actors and former gladiators were banned altogether from the Colosseum.

The author

The author

Inscriptions identified the areas reserved for specific groups (boys with their tutors, soldiers on leave, foreign dignitaries, scribes, heralds, priests, etc.) with the names of some 5th century senators still seen carved into the stonework (presumably reserving areas for their use). Stone (and later marble) was provided for the seats of citizens and nobles (presumably they brought their own cushions with them).

L-R: Kyle, Cheska, Jandy and Grace

L-R: Kyle, Cheska, Jandy and Grace

Curved passages and low walls (praecinctiones or baltei) divided each tier into sections (maeniana) and were further subdivided into cunei, or wedges, by the steps and aisles from the vomitoria. Each row (gradus) of seats was numbered, permitting each individual seat to be exactly designated by its gradus, cuneus, and number.

Hypogeum

Hypogeum

The arena (part of it re-floored), comprising a wooden floor covered by sand (harena or arena is the Latin word for sand), covers the hypogeum  (literally meaning “underground”), an elaborate two-level subterranean network, built by Emperor Domitian, of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. It was connected by underground tunnels to a number of points outside the Colosseum. Caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath were provided instant access to the arena by 80 vertical shafts while larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and the like.

Hypogeum (2)

A museum, dedicated to Eros, is located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building.

Base of the statue of Praefectus Urbi (Prefect of Rome)

Base of the statue of Praefectus Urbi (Prefect of Rome)

Colosseum: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 RomeItaly. Open daily, except January 1 and December 25. Tel:  (+39) 06 39967700 (Mondays-Saturdays, 9 AM -1:30 PM and 2:30 -5 PM).  Tickets (€2) can also be bought (often avoiding a long queue) at the ticket offices in Via di San Gregorio (Palatine), Largo Salara Vecchia (former Largo Romolo e Remo  – Roman Forum) and Via Sacra (Roman Forum, Arco di Tito). The Colosseum, together with the Forum/Palatine Hill ticket, is valid for both.

How to Get There
The Colosseum is located a few hundred yards from Piazza Venezia, and close to the Forum.

  • On “B” line Metro station Colosseo
  • “A” line Metro station Manzoni, then two stops of Tram No. 3 going southwards
  • Bus lines 60, 75, 85, 87, 271, 571, 175, 186, 810, 850, C3, and the electric minibus 117
  • Tramway Line No. 3.

Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument (Laoag City, Ilocos Norte)

Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument

This obelisk of clay and brick was erected on November 28,1882 by alcalde mayor (provincial governor) Don Jose Moreno Lacalle as a gesture of thanksgiving to King Alfonso XIII of Spain for abolishing the hated tobacco monopoly, during the incumbency of Gov. Fernando Primo de Rivera, in accordance with a royal decree issued on June 5, 1881.

NHI Plaque

The tobacco monopoly,  established by Gov. Jose Basco y Vargas by virtue of the royal decree of February 9, 1780, aimed to bring in large profits for the government and make the Philippines the leading tobacco producer of the world.

However, it oppressed the Ilocano farmers and landowners as no one could raise or sell a single leaf of tobacco without first having permission from the government.    The suppression of the monopoly was completed in 1884 and tobacco remains to be a major cash crop in the province.

Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument: A. Bonifacio St., Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.

How to Get There: The monument is located at the foot of Marcos Bridge, over the Laoag River.

Mauthausen Memorial (Mauthausen, Austria)

Mauthausen Memorial

Mauthausen Memorial

Come morning, after breakfast at our hotel, Grace, Manny, Jandy, Cheska, Kyle and I were met by my wife’s cousins Popong and Freddie at the hotel lobby.  Once assembled, we boarded the rented van driven by Freddie that would take us on our 88.7-km.  journey to Mauthausen Memorial, site of the first concentration camp established by the Nazis in in Upper Austria after their annexation of country in March 1938 and one of the last remaining concentration camps from World War II in Europe.

Mauthausen

The idyllic Mauthausen countryside today

On our way out, we also picked up Vicky, another of Grace’s cousins, and her husband Isko who were to join us on our trip. Our journey took us a little over an hour, with a short stopover for snacks and a toilet break.  Upon arrival, Freddie parked the van at a big parking area just outside the complex. Upon alighting, we first walked to the new, raw gray concrete visitor’s center, just outside the site’s walls.

The modern Visitors Center

The modern Visitors Center

Designed by architects Herwig MayerChristoph Schwarz, and Karl Peyrer-Heimstätt, the center was inaugurated in 2003.  It  covers an area of 2,845 sq. m. (30,620 sq. ft.). and has a book shop, information desk, workshop, toilets and a cinema. There is also a cafe but it has different opening hours depending on the time of year.

Inside the Visitors Center

Vicky, Freddie, Grace, Manny and Popong inside the Visitors Center

The camp, situated on a 265 m. (869 ft.) rise of above Mauthausen town (2014 population: 4,913),  on the Gusen River that flows into the Danube River, presently has a serene setting that belies its sordid past as, during World War II, Mauthausen was a labor camp designed to kill its inmates. The main camp of Mauthausen consisted of 32 barracks surrounded by an electrified barbed wire, high stone walls and watch towers.

Barracks and guard watchtower

Barracks and guard watchtower

From its beginnings, in August 8, 1938 (when prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were sent to Mauthausen to begin the camp construction), to its liberation by the US 11th Armored Division, 3rd US Army on May 3, 1945, the concentration camp, one of the largest labor camp complexes in the Third Reich, worked people to death mining granite to build the granite fortress-prison of the main camp, pave the streets of Vienna and build Adolf Hitler‘s grandiose architectural projects. About 190,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned in Mauthausen.

Czechoslovakia Monument

Czechoslovakia Monument

They included non-Germanic people groups (Jews, Slavs, Soviet prisoners, Czech and Polish intelligentsia, Roma, gypsies, etc.) who didn’t fit the Nazi ideal of racial superiority, perceived social threats (homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.), and political dissenters (Social Democrats, Communists, anarchists, etc.). Mauthausen’s most famous inmate was Simon Wiesenthal who created the Simon Wiesenthal Center after the war to locate fugitive Nazi war criminals.

Poland Monument

Poland Monument

Inmates here were literally worked to death at the rock quarry (known as the “Wiener Graben”) and their daily diet was only half the calories necessary for subsistence.  Certain groups were simply summarily executed (including via a gas chamber) by the Nazi regime.

Soviet Union Monument

Soviet Union Monument

Over 100,000 people died. In 1949, it was declared a national memorial site and, on May 3, 1975, 30 years after the camp’s liberation, Bruno Kreisky, the Chancellor of Austria officially opened the Mauthausen Museum . The Mauthausen site remains largely intact, but much of what constituted the sub-camps of Gusen I, II and III is now covered by residential areas built after the war. Today, Mauthausen Memorial stands as a reminder of the darkest days of Austria’s history.

Mongol Gate

Mongol Gate

We entered the camp via the main entrance that former prisoners referred to as the Mongol (or Mongolian) Gate. The two identical guard watchtowers towers above the gate give the appearance of Chinese architecture. As there was a ready supply of granite, there was extensive use of this stone, making Mauthausen as the most ornate concentration camp during the war. The camp’s stone construction also made the camp look the same as when it was built in 1938.

Courtyard of SS Garage

Courtyard of SS Garage

There was once a metal eagle and swastika above the gate but it was removed when the camp was liberated in 1945. The stairs on the right lead down to the S.S. Garagenhof (garage yard) which was used  for S.S. celebrations and as an assembly area for inmates during delousing actions. Overlooking the garage is the balcony where camp commandant S.S. Col. Franz Ziereis would give speeches to his S.S. guards and inmates.

Roll Call Square

Roll Call Square

Once inside the camp, we stood on a wide open courtyard called “Roll Call Square” located in front of the hospital and gas chamber. Each day, there were 3 roll calls held in this courtyard (reduced to 2 after 1943) and inmates were assembled to hear speeches and instructions from Ziereis. The prisoner’s working day started at 4.45 AM in the summer and 5.15 AM in the winter. The day ended at 7 PM.  A number of memorials to the victims of Mauthausen are located in the roll call area.

Sarkophag Memorial

Sarkophag Memorial

Straight ahead is the “Klagemauer” (“Wailing Wall”). When prisoners first arrived here, they had to pass an initiation ritual which included passing hours and, sometimes days, standing facing “The Wailing Wall” while chained to iron rings set in the wall.

Memorial plaques at Wailing Wall

Memorial plaques at Wailing Wall

They were also interrogated and brutally beaten.  Today, the “Wailing Wall” and the wall on the left now have numerous personal memorial tablets placed there by families of the victims and a wide range of countries. There’s also a memorial to Pope John Paul II‘s visit to Mauthausen Memorial on June 24, 1988.

John Paul II Visit Memorial

John Paul II Visit Memorial

Behind the granite wall, on the right, is the quarantine camp while the building on the left, with 2 chimneys, is the hospital which contained a gas chamber in the basement. In the former kitchen is a Catholic church. The majority of the prisoners sent to Mauthausen were Catholics.

Catholic chapel

Catholic chapel

To the left of the Mongol Gate are some of the remaining wooden prisoner barracks that have been restored using the same materials used during the camp construction. These barracks were overcrowded and the sanitary conditions deplorable.

Barrack interior

Barrack interior

Each barrack had two bedrooms and two living rooms located on the left and right sides of the entrance. The prisoners were not allowed to spend much time in the living room, being forced to stay in the bedrooms, with two or three in the same bed. In front of the entrance, in the middle of the barrack, was the bathroom.

Barracks bathroom

Barracks bathroom

At the ground floor of the old infirmary is a very well explained (they also have an English translation) museum, opened in May 2013, covering the history of Mauthausen, from its inception in 1938 to the liberation of the camp on May 3, 1945.

Exhibits (8)

Museum exhibits

Museum exhibits

On display are samples of letters, clothes (the prisoners were forced to wear colored triangles in order to identify the category to which they belong – Gypsy, gay, Jewish, political prisoners, etc.) and other artifacts seen inside the camp.  This kept us occupied for quite a long time.

Typical striped concentration camp inmate clothes

Typical striped concentration camp inmate clothes

Next, we went down the basement where we followed the scene of the crime and the murder of prisoners. The gas chamber, refrigeration room, dissection room and crematorium complex, the very disturbing sections of the camp, are definitely not for the squeamish or for children.

Disinfection Room

Disinfection Room

The gas chamber, completed and used by the spring of 1942, could murder 120 people at one time and it is estimated that around 10,200 prisoners were gassed in this room. However, its construction was inefficient and the prisoners often died of suffocation rather than the gas. The Judas Opening, a hole in the door of the gas chamber, allowed the curious or, better said, the sadists, to see what is happening inside the chamber.

Crematorium

Crematorium

The dissection room was were, after a person was gassed, they were taken to have their gold fillings removed. The box on the right was for the collection of the fillings.  After their fillings were removed, their bodies were stored in the refrigeration room before being taken to the crematorium.

Portion of the high-voltage electric fence

Portion of the high-voltage electric fence

The dissection room was also used for cruel medical experiments and for taking organs from living people. The organs were bottled and stored on shelves.  The crematorium ovens was the final procedure in the murder process of tens of thousands of inmates of Mauthausen.

Crematorium Memorial Room

Crematorium Memorial Room

Then there is the Room of Names which displays and lists the etched names of 81,000 known victims (the names are also available to view via the internet) onto various horizontally placed black glass plates.  We then left the building and walk a short distance before returning to an older part of the museum.

Room of Names

Room of Names

On a green field at the entrance in the concentration camp, between the main camp and the quarry steps, is the Memorial Garden, originally the site of the S.S. administrative barracks.

Hungary Monument

Hungary Monument

Jewish Memorial

Jewish Memorial

In 1949, the site was turned into a memorial garden with the first memorial being donated by France. Today, there are now 22 monuments and more than 30 inscribed plaques, donated by numerous nations subjugated by Germany during the World War II, to remember their prisoners from Mauthausen.

Bulgaria Monument

Bulgaria Monument

Monument to Women

Monument to Women

Also inside the camp are many graves of different nationalities. Barracks 21–24 and Camp II, formerly used as quarantine camps after 1944, now house remains of the inmates from the “American cemeteries” which were transferred here in 1961.

Camp II (Quarantine Camp)

Camp II (Quarantine Camp)

Just past the Memorial Garden Prisoners is the “Todesstiege” (“Stairs of Death”), were Jewish inmates were forced to run up the 186 steps carrying huge packs with 25 kgs. of blocks of granite on their backs from  the Wiener Graben. The weight was gradually increased and, as the prisoners tired, they would fall backwards striking other prisoners, some of them being killed by the blocks that fell, and causing a domino effect, with the S.S. guards placing bets on who would fall.

Remembering the dead at Barracks 21-24

Remembering the dead at Barracks 21-24

For their sick entertainment, the sadistic S.S. guards would frequently take those that survived that fate to the top of the quarry and often forced them to jump or push them, over the narrow ledge of the quarry, to their deaths in a procedure called the “parachute jump,” cynically referring to them as “Fallschirmspringer” (“parachutists”). Today, the ledge is now overgrown with trees and bushes but, from an observation point, we can see the valley below.

Stairs of Death

Stairs of Death

Our visit to this concentration camp was educational, making us see the awful conditions the inmates were forced to live when the world was at war, and also left us speechless as we understood the pain people here experienced at this place.  It was like taking a trip back into time that, even though it is horrific, it is still part of history, a history that, for the sake of the world’s future, none should ever forget or pretend that it doesn’t exist. The Mauthausen Memorial truly deserves a visit, not just for the camp itself, but for the memory of all the people who lost their lives here.

L-R - Isko, Manny, PPopong, the author, Grace, Kyle, Jandy, Vicky and Cheska

L-R:- Isko, Manny, Popong, the author, Grace, Kyle, Jandy, Vicky and Cheska

Mauthausen Memorial: Erinnerungsstraße 1, 4310 Mauthausen, Austria. Tel: +43 7238 22690. Fax: +43 7238 2269 40. Admission: 2 EUR. Open daily, 9 AM – 5:30 PM (March 1 – July 10); Tuesdays – Sundays, 9 AM – 5:30 PM (July 11 – October 31) and Tuesdays – Sundays, 9 AM – 3:45 PM (November 1 – February 28).  Audio guides, in a variety of languages, are available for 3€. There are a number of guided tours available but it is a case of checking the website or phoning the visitor’s centre. During winter, some parts of the camp aren’t accessible for safety reasons (ice). Website: www.mauthausen-memorial.at.