The Dome Of Souls Symbolism
Dome of Souls:
This is the centrepiece and inspirational heart of the entire complex.
It is the starting point for the Memorial concept and has been the source and wellspring of the most fundamental basis to the whole idea. It’s validity as a concept is based on the fact that it was directly inspired by an incident, which took place at the Dedication of the Memorial site on 19th November 1998. A flock of sea gulls swooped over the assembled crowd at the setting of the sun, while the notes of the Last Post rang out in the evening air over the Indian Ocean, on the West Coast of Australia where HMAS Sydney sank without a trace, 57 years before. This inspiring moment is encapsulated and frozen in space and time by the formation of the domed roof by a flock of stainless steel sea gulls, ( Larus novaehollandiae- “Silver Gulls”) comprising 645 individual elements, representing the Crew of the Sydney.
Birds are symbolic as spirits of the dead; the soul freed from the body; ascent into heaven; the ability to communicate with God or entering into a higher state of consciousness. They depict the celestial realm and powers opposing evil. These birds are symbolic of the Souls of the departed, expressed in this ethereal way, serene, elemental and as spirits flying free, between water and sky. Historically, the souls of drowned sailors were believed to be embodied in Sea Gulls. So, it was as if, at that moment of Dedication, they flew past, to give their imprimatur to the building of the Memorial and confirm their transcendence.
This incident has created an opportunity to produce a totally unique concept, specific to the Memorial to HMAS Sydney II at Mount Scott, individualising the Memorial in a distinctive way for all time.
This cupola of birds, 9 meters high and 12 meters in diameter, is intended to be uplifting in nature while enclosing a sacred space of remembrance and a symbolic link with the men of HMAS Sydney II. It forms a canopy, which is a filigree of stainless steel and an open weave dome. The whole effect of distilled light reflects the silver sea, creating a sense of disembodiment and peace. Standing at the centre of this empty space, one becomes aware of the vastness of the ocean; this great open grave and as one’s eyes are drawn upward towards the light, there is a sensation of looking up at the surface of the sea from below. By day, the beauty of the Geraldton blue sky can be glimpsed, filtering light through the silver winged shapes into the Memorial inner space; while at night, the cupola, lit internally, would form a dome of gold, glowing on the top of Mt. Scott.
This inner space in itself is highly symbolic and is designed to be evocative of the emptiness left behind by the missing crewmen.
The Seven Pillars
The dome surmounts seven pillars, representing the Seven States and Territories of Australia.
They are also symbolic of the Seven Seas. These would be constructed of Stainless Steel and can carry various emblems or insignia. They are set at intervals, which allow for open viewing at the West Side to the Indian Ocean. Symbolically, the pillar is the world axis, the vertical axis that joins Heaven and Earth. Pillar and tree symbolism is connected and the pillar in this context represents the Tree of Life. The pillar is also wisdom, power, goodness and strength. The pillar surmounted by a crown is the architectural symbol of the highest point and is the most direct way of spiritual ascent, from darkness into light. These pillars support the ‘crown of birds’, and traditionally, the bird itself on a pillar, is symbolic of the union of spirit and matter.
The Podium of the Memorial is circular in form, echoing the shape of the Dome above.
It is composed of cut stone from all the Seven States and Territories of Australia, symbolising the National composition of the crew of HMAS Sydney II. Thereby, the National quality of this Memorial is established. The design is based on the Nautical Compass incorporating various symbolic elements based on the Sea Gull and the Stele motifs.
An inscription is set into the Black Granite of the enclosing circle:
“IN MEMORY OF THE MEN LOST ON HMAS SYDNEY II 19TH NOVEMBER 1941. LEST WE FORGET”
The filtered light flowing through the canopy of birds, throws reflected shadows on the ground below,
creating, through the shifting light, a sense of movement, like clouds passing over the sea or the flight of the sea gulls which inspired the concept.
From the podium at the centre of the circle, an altar rises. This provides a formal place for wreath – laying on ceremonial occasions. It is hoped to procure an authentic ship’s propeller for this feature, which being cast in bronze.
The circle forming the floor of the Memorial is symbolic in itself.\
It is a universal symbol of totality, wholeness, infinity, eternity; it represents ‘time enclosing space’, but also ‘timelessness’, as having no beginning or end and ‘spacelessness’ as having no above or below. It is the abolition of time and space, but also signifies recurrence. Limestone walls, curved to follow the basic form of the Memorial, delineate various areas and echo the theme of the Circle, which is the basis of the whole design. Steps are formed at the base of the Podium, for ceremonial wreath-laying or personal dedication. These steps also can serve as seating, for rest and contemplation. They allow the visitor a poignant, but superbly breath-taking view out over the City of Geraldton below to the Indian Ocean beyond, in the depths of which, the Ship now lies.
The Eternal Flame
The domed roof forms an inverted bowl shape, which could hold an Eternal Flame.
This would provide lighting effects, which would be particularly evocative at night. It would also form the centrepiece for ceremonies and keep alive, symbolically, the spirits of the men. The Flame is symbolic of eternal life and spiritual power, unseen ‘energy in existence’. It is a manifestation of the soul. It is proposed to create a double lantern feature: one red and one green, symbolic of the Ship’s Port and Starboard lights.