Unveiled in all its solemn glory, the St Paul’s monument to Covid victims YOU helped build: ROBERT HARDMAN on Daily Mail readers’ magnificent response to the ‘Remember Me’ appeal
Towering above the north door of one of our greatest landmarks – constructed of the very finest British oak – it evokes a sense of grandeur, solemnity, intimacy and, above all, commemoration.
And today the Daily Mail is proud to offer our famously generous readers a first glimpse of the United Kingdom’s new Covid memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral – just a few weeks before it plays a starring role in the national service of thanksgiving to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
For it was in no small part thanks to all those of you who responded to the Mail’s Remember Me appeal that this £2.7million project was able to take shape at all. And it has all happened in a matter of months.
Last night, Boris Johnson was among the first to pay tribute to the most important addition to the fabric of St Paul’s since the 19th century.
‘I want to congratulate the Mail and its readers on a wonderful campaign,’ the Prime Minister said.
Now that this mighty hallway is completed, the cathedral authorities will shortly install the interactive screens which will enable visitors to bring up any of the names and faces registered on the Remember Me digital Book of Remembrance
‘We will grieve forever for those we lost from Covid. Our deepest sympathies will be there with their families and loved ones and friends, and I want to thank the readers of the Mail for helping provide a fitting memorial.’
The memorial consists of this dramatic new portico which, together with an entirely new – and very elegant – winding, step-free approach to the north door, has transformed this entire wing of the cathedral. In doing so, it has replaced the hurried repair job undertaken in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War when a huge German bomb wrecked this whole section of St Paul’s.
The oak has been sourced from Perth in Scotland, Beaufront Castle in Cumbria, Marden in Kent and elsewhere. Now that this mighty hallway is completed, the cathedral authorities will shortly install the interactive screens which will enable visitors to bring up any of the names and faces registered on the Remember Me digital Book of Remembrance.
Anyone can register an entry for any Covid-related death for free and entry to this section of the cathedral will be free of charge too.
Having seen the new structure with my own eyes yesterday, I have no doubt that those mourning a loved one will find great solace and also a sense of national recognition when they come here.
As you first walk in, there is the feel of entering a cosy parish church. You are cocooned by oak beneath the message, engraved in gold lettering: ‘Remembering all who died as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic’.
The idea is to reset your mood after the hurly-burly of the City streets outside. The warm glow of the halo-like lighting hides the grandeur until you look up through the columns above and see Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece towering above you. On major state occasions the huge oak doors will be thrown open to let people in. The rest of the time they will turn through glass doors.
These have been engraved with a range of messages: ‘You touched our hearts’, ‘We will remember you’, ‘Keep you in our thoughts’, ‘Love eternal’, ‘We miss you every day’, ‘Loved so much’.
The engravers painstakingly read through all 11,000 entries currently recorded in the Book of Remembrance and then extracted the most popular phrases.
Having seen the new structure with my own eyes yesterday, I have no doubt that those mourning a loved one will find great solace and also a sense of national recognition when they come here
The designs also include an engraved heart, a poignant tribute to the efforts of supporters like Annette Allen.
Having lost her father, Ray Maskell, to Covid in the early stages of the pandemic, the Bournemouth teaching assistant started making yellow heart pin badges to raise funds for the Remember Me appeal.
The idea has since caught on all over the country, generating tens of thousands of pounds.
The portico includes a ticket office for those who want to buy a ticket to look round the entire cathedral.
But those who simply want to enter the Remember Me commemorative area will be equally welcome. There, just before the great dome, they will find a quiet remembrance space dedicated to those of all faiths and none.
Having endured a devastating drop in visitor numbers over the past two years, the cathedral is now seeing the crowds return. Yesterday, there were queues of tourists from all over the world and many wanted to have a closer look at the new structure.
For now, however, it must remained fenced off while the cathedral authorities and the builders sort out the final details.
The plan is then to let the first visitors through here on June 3, the day of the Queen’s Jubilee service. The Remember Me memorial will be fully operational later that month.
The campaigners will not be stopping there, however. Sir Lloyd Dorfman CBE, the businessman and philanthropist who has been driving this project from the start, is leading a second appeal to build a vast curved, interactive memorial wall.
This will enable the images of every named loved one to be beamed up on public display, along with digital artworks and other messages.
‘We want to create an entirely new form of 21st century memorial, something of a world first,’ Sir Lloyd explained last night. ‘St Paul’s is rightly proud of having so many historic memorials and plaques.
‘Alongside all of these, we want to honour the loved ones of another generation using the very finest and very latest digital technology.’
The Dean of St Paul’s, Dr David Ison, believes this will be a perfect addition to Wren’s colossus.
‘Our vision is to make it possible for thousands of people from across the UK to be valued and remembered in St Paul’s, alongside traditional memorials to national events and important people,’ he said yesterday. ‘The newly-built portico memorial reminds us all of what we have been through, together, over the last two years. Every person recorded in the Remember Me memorial is unique.’
As is this glorious memorial itself.
To donate to the fund, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/remember-me-physical-memorial
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