For most of the past century, the Peace Tower has proudly announced that our country stands for harmony in times of both peace and conflict. Overseeing the workings of Parliament, the 92.2-metre tower was built to replace the old tower, after fire destroyed most of the Parliament Buildings in 1916. Conceived in the literal and figurative ashes of the First World War, the new tower very aptly earned its symbolic moniker, the “Peace Tower.”

Kings, queens and heads of state enter Parliament through the entrance at the foot of the tower — look closely at a $20 or $50 bill and you’ll see the archway. Crowds gather on the enormous lawn below the tower to celebrate events, memorialize losses and to make their voices heard. During special evenings in the summer and winter, a sound and light show is projected onto the Parliament Buildings.

A Canadian flag flies from the tower’s copper-covered apex and is changed daily, Monday to Friday. You can even sign up to receive a flag that has flown from the Peace Tower! The flagpole is the “flagpole of the nation”; for example, a flag at half-mast triggers a day of national mourning.

The Peace Tower is visible from almost anywhere in the Capital Region, including across the provincial border in Gatineau, Quebec. The four clock faces are almost five metres across, and light up at night. The time is set by the atomic clock at the National Research Council Canada, in the Capital.

Officially, the neo-Gothic tower is a campanile, or free-standing bell tower. The Dominion Carillonneur rings the 53 bells ring during national events like Canada Day, state funerals, and during Remembrance Day ceremonies. The old tower was also a campanile; its bell crashed down during the fire, and can still be seen on the grounds of Parliament Hill today.

The tower is constructed of Canadian stone, ranging from Ontarian and Nova Scotian sandstone to Quebec granite. Artists created many carvings, including grotesques, which symbolize a fight against evil, and gargoyles, which direct water away from the outside of the tower.

The Peace Tower was designed and built as the First World War raged in Europe. As a reminder of this horrific conflict, the Memorial Chamber was created just above the entrance archway. Canada’s is the only Parliament in the world to have such a room. Within the richly carved and highly symbolic room, the Books of Remembrance list all Canadian soldiers, airmen and seamen who have died in service. The pages of the books are turned daily at 11 am, ensuring that names of the fallen appear at least once every year; family members can arrange to be present at this ceremony.

When dedicating the new tower’s building site in 1917, Prime Minister Robert Borden reminded the country of the need for peace in a world mired in war: “[the tower will be a] memorial to the debt of our forefathers and to the valour of those Canadians who, in the Great War, fought for the liberties of Canada, of the Empire, and of humanity.”

The Peace Tower was commemorated as such in 1927 and, to this day, celebrates our desire for a more peaceful world.
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