On our last day in England my wife and I took a stroll through Hyde Park which was a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of the crowded London streets. We stopped by the Princes Diana memorial and joined with many others in soaking our tired and dusty feet in the cool water.
The idea for the design – a large oval-shaped stream, accessible to any of the public was fitting for who Dianna was as a person. We sat there and reflected for a while. We then made our way back to the city centre to catch the tube home. On our way out of Hyde Park we stumbled across something quite unexpected – a huge memorial commissioned by Queen Victoria for her beloved husband Albert. Prince Albert died of typhoid fever at age 42. Queen Victoria, grief stricken, wanted to erect a national memorial to recognise the British (and her) deep sense of loss.
She did just that. The memorial stands a whopping 54 metres ( 172 feet) high and weighs thousands of tons. It took 10 years to complete at a cost of £120,000. With the evening sun shining behind it really did look magnificent, with Albert seated in guilted bronze looking out over the city.
We made our way slowly around it, gazing up at the marble figures at each corner representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America. Higher up there are more beautifully sculptured figures representing the things Albert took great interest in – manufacturing, commerce, agriculture and engineering. And then higher still, near the top there were guilded bronze statues of angels.
Although I have an interest in art and sculptor (asthetics), I have an even greater interest in engineering (construction). The question on my mind was: how did they build such a thing? You cannot put thousands of tons of marble, stone and bronze on top of a hill and simply leave it there. It needs foundations. Very LARGE foundations. That evening, while my wife was relaxing and reading, I decided to do a little digging (no pun intended).
I learned the actual area was flat originally and they had to excavate a large concrete area some 17 feet deep. Then the brick layers came in. They built – now get this – a staggering 868 arches which served to buttress (or support) the central column which would support the weight of the memorial. This brickwork was of very high quality and comments in the archives record how many considered the foundations as a building in its own right. And looking at the pictures I found you can see why.
And here is a Victorian photo taken during the construction. The marble steps were laid on top of the piles shown:
I found this all quite fascinating. Everytime I come across a monument or big statue from here on I’m going to be thinking: what is holding up this structure?
Let me take that one step further if I may. There’s an important life lesson we can draw from this. It’s not only great monuments that have solid foundations. So do great lives. Think of any great leader or great statesman in world history. They didn’t just appear from nowhere. Their lives were built of something – something solid – solid values, solid virtues, solid character.
The most influential leaders in my life are all great Christian leaders. When I start digging into what made them the men or women of God that they are (or were), I find a similar pattern: solid foundations. There are great ‘arches’ that support their lives: prayer, study of the Word and humble, self-sacrificial service. Deep, goldly lives don’t appear in a vacuum. They are made. Long before they appear on the public scene there has been years of hidden investment, that no one sees and no one knows about. But God knows about these things. He sees. He watches. And he rewards.
It’s interesting what comes to the surface by simply thinking and meditating on something we see in life. Jesus did this all the time with his disciples. He drew spiritual lessons from the things they saw. It’s one thing to do this while on vactation. What I need to do is work on seeing these kinds of things every day.