Hall of Memory - The Dome

The Byzantine dome of the Australian War Memorial is a familiar national icon. Its mosaic interior rises to 24 metres above the floor, drawing our gaze upward. From the base of the dome, stylised hands deliver the souls of the dead through clouds and dark blue sky to heaven. The spirits are symbolised by simplified, winged coffins in shapes that suggest Egyptian mummies. From a central spiritual sun, over which the stars of the Southern Cross are superimposed, seven shafts of light radiate to the cornice (the lower rim of the dome) and symbolise the seven-pointed star of Australia.

Napier Waller, Dome for the Hall of Memory 1955-58, glass enamel tesserae, 12m diameter, commissioned 1953, ART90409.005

Just above the cornice, a classical wreath of leaves emphasises that the Hall of Memory is a memorial to the fallen, but this wreath is of Australian wattle. A flight of black swans symbolises the air, and beneath them are bands of stylised waterlilies and bulrushes, symbolising water. An unbroken golden chain represents the continuity of earthly life and the spirit. The geometric symmetry of the dome mosaic’s design recalls Napier Waller’s earlier interest in Art Deco. The blue and gold colour scheme repeats the colours of the windows, and was devised after he had chosen the light tones of the walls. The symbolism reflects Waller’s interest in spiritualism. It evokes the renewal of life’s forces and celebrates the immortality of those who believed in freedom and ultimately died to defend it.

Napier Waller, Dome for the Hall of Memory 1955-58 (detail), glass enamel tesserae, 12m diameter, commissioned 1953, ART90409.005

 

Read about the mosaics in the Hall of Memory
Mosaics