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. Read More
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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Photo of the fire

After the fire of 1916, only the Library of Parliament was left standing. Observers report hearing the bell ringing, before it came crashing to the ground. Work on the new buildings began almost immediately.

Library and Archives Canada
c. 1916
© Library and Archives Canada. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of Canada Day celebration

The lawn immediately below the Peace Tower is Canada’s gathering place, where we celebrate our milestones, and remember our losses.

National Capital Commission
2008-07-01
© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.


Peace Tower close-up of gargoyle

The Peace Tower prominently features four gargoyles, each more than eight metres long. These stone creatures have a very important function: they direct rainwater away from the building, and help preserve the stone.

National Capital Commission

© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.


Gargoyles and grotesques are stone carvings that protect buildings. Some take human or animal shapes, while others are fantastical monsters. Many are humorous. Pick a location in your school building where a grotesque or gargoyle would fit. Draw a design for a carving. Should it be a humorous carving? A scary one? What is the symbolic meaning of your design?
Gargoyles and grotesques are stone carvings that protect buildings. Some take human or animal shapes, while others are fantastical monsters. Many are humorous. Pick a location in your school building where a grotesque or gargoyle would fit. Draw a design for a carving. Should it be a humorous carving? A scary one? What is the symbolic meaning of your design?

© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.

The Peace Tower figures prominently in many major Canadian celebrations, such as Canada Day. Choose one event that has happened on Parliament Hill. Using the Internet, determine what the elements of this event were. Was there a musical component? A light show? Other performances? What was the role of the crowd, security, the military? Why did this event take place in Canada’s Capital? Using your example, propose a new event on Parliament Hill. What or whom are you celebrating? Why should this event take place in the Capital? Sometimes, events result in the creation of more permanent markers, such as plaques or buildings. Think of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, for example. Is there any permanent legacy of your event? Outline your proposal for your class. Design a poster and an itinerary for your event.
The Peace Tower figures prominently in many major Canadian celebrations, such as Canada Day. Choose one event that has happened on Parliament Hill. Using the Internet, determine what the elements of this event were. Was there a musical component? A light show? Other performances? What was the role of the crowd, security, the military? Why did this event take place in Canada’s Capital? Using your example, propose a new event on Parliament Hill. What or whom are you celebrating? Why should this event take place in the Capital? Sometimes, events result in the creation of more permanent markers, such as plaques or buildings. Think of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, for example. Is there any permanent legacy of your event? Outline your proposal for your class. Design a poster and an itinerary for your event.

© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.

Towers are usually the tallest structures in a city or town. Towers can be for communications, can have a military function (such as a watchtower) or can be important for religious reasons. Think about your school building. In small groups, discuss the idea of creating a tower for your school. What would its function be? What would it look like? Be creative!
Towers are usually the tallest structures in a city or town. Towers can be for communications, can have a military function (such as a watchtower) or can be important for religious reasons. Think about your school building. In small groups, discuss the idea of creating a tower for your school. What would its function be? What would it look like? Be creative!

© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.

Canada’s Peace Tower is highly symbolic. Using library and Internet resources, select one element of Ottawa’s Peace Tower (e.g. the Memorial Chamber, the exterior, the clock, the carillon, the carvings, the actual name “Peace Tower”) and reflect on its symbolic meaning. What is being commemorated, and how? What are the pros and cons of making a permanent monument versus holding an event or having a less tangible commemoration? What does the Peace Tower mean to Canadians, and how is this meaning given form in your chosen element?
Canada’s Peace Tower is highly symbolic. Using library and Internet resources, select one element of Ottawa’s Peace Tower (e.g. the Memorial Chamber, the exterior, the clock, the carillon, the carvings, the actual name “Peace Tower”) and reflect on its symbolic meaning. What is being commemorated, and how? What are the pros and cons of making a permanent monument versus holding an event or having a less tangible commemoration? What does the Peace Tower mean to Canadians, and how is this meaning given form in your chosen element?

© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • learn more about the symbolic mean of towers in general and The Peace Tower specifically;
  • create a piece of persuasive media;
  • find out more about the use of symbolic imagery in Canada’s Peace Tower;
  • understand that symbolic imagery can exist in a variety of forms and places.

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