Explore the Peace Tower

At a height of nearly 98 metres, the Peace Tower is the dominant feature on Parliament Hill, and probably the most widely recognized symbol of Canada after the flag.

Soar over the Peace Tower

Enjoy the breathtaking aerial images of the Centre Block, the Peace Tower, the grounds of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River.

Transcript of the Soar over the Peace Tower video

Throughout the video, aerial images shot from a drone are shown, and light instrumental music is played in the background.

Medium shot of the Peace Tower, moving north-west towards the Ottawa River.

Close-up of gargoyles under the Peace Tower Clock, circling the tower to the right.

Wide shot of the Centre Block, rising towards the top of the Peace Tower.

Top view of a man raising the Flag of Canada up the Peace Tower pole.

Wide shot of the Centre Block and Parliament Hill grounds, moving north-east between two tall construction cranes.

Overhead shot of the Centre Block, rising towards the top of the Peace Tower.

Cut to black and music stops.

Canada Wordmark

Changing of the Peace Tower flag

The Peace Tower flag is changed each day from Monday to Friday and on days when it is flown at half mast. The flag is not changed on statutory holidays or during poor weather.

Learn more about the Parliament Hill flags.

Peace Tower clock

View enlarged image of the Parliament Hill's Centre Block Peace Tower

In 1927, the Peace Tower clock was given to Canada by the United Kingdom. The gift marked the 60th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. The original clock no longer works and has since been replaced. However, visitors to the Peace Tower can view it on display in the Tower's observation deck.

There are four clock faces in total: one on each side of the Tower. The hour and minute hands of each face are run by an electric motor. Its controls are located ten storeys down the Tower on the master clock. The precise timing of the clock is kept by the National Research Council's atomic clock in Ottawa.

People are often interested to learn that the Tower's master clock cannot be set back. Therefore, at the end of Daylight Saving Time in autumn, a government employee halts the clock for a full hour overnight. In the spring, the hour hand is moved forward one hour. Its chimes are temporarily disconnected to prevent them from ringing during the process.

Peace Tower carillon

The Peace Tower carillon is one of the oldest and finest carillons in North America. It includes 53 bells and weighs 54 tonnes. These bells range in weight from 10,090 kilograms to only 4.5 kilograms. The bourdon is the largest and heaviest bell and plays the low note E. The smallest and lightest bell plays the A—four and a half octaves higher! The sound you hear each hour is made by the bourdon.

A carillon is played from a large keyboard—similar to an organ. The person who plays the bells is called a carillonneur. Carillonneurs play the bells by striking the keys with their fists. To play the larger bells, they must strike the keys with their feet. The bells do not actually swing. Instead, a clapper strikes each bell with the force that the carillonneur uses to strike the key.

The Peace Tower carillon was developed from the 17th century chiming clocks in Belgium and the Netherlands. Musicians from all over the world come to Ottawa to study this superbly tuned instrument.

Enjoy the carillon concerts and discover a unique musical experience.

Memorial Chamber

View enlarged image of the Memorial Chamber

The Memorial Chamber is a solemn room near the base of the Peace Tower. Built of marble, the room is dedicated to the Canadians who died in conflicts around the world.

The Chamber's stained glass windows show the journey of soldiers from the call of battle to the return home. The floor is made from stone collected from the battlefields of Europe: Ypres, Sommes, Vimy and Verdun, to name a few.

The Chamber contains a massive stone central altar. The altar is surrounded by seven altars that are made of stone and bronze. Each altar holds a different Book of Remembrance. These books contain the names of the more than 118,000 Canadians who fought and died in the service of Canada.

The Books are displayed open in glass cases. At 11 o'clock every morning, one page is turned in each book during a ceremony. The families and friends of Canada's fallen heroes can search the Books of Remembrance or contact the Memorial Chamber to learn when their loved one's name will be shown.

Learn more about the history of the Memorial Chamber.

The Memorial Chamber altars

To mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the six wooden altars in Parliament Hill's Memorial Chamber were replaced by ones made of stone and bronze. As well, to mark the 200th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812, a new Book of Remembrance and altar were added to the Memorial Chamber.

Watch the video to see the new altars and to hear the story of this sacred place.

Transcript of the Memorial Chamber altars video

(Text on screen: To mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War, six wooden altars within Parliament Hill's Memorial Chamber were replaced by ones made of stone.

To mark the 200th anniversary of the ratification of the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812, a Book of Remembrance and altar were added to the Memorial Chamber.)

(Orchestral music in background.)

(Text on screen: The altars will continue to fully honour those who died in service.)

(View of entrance to the Memorial Chamber and the back of a constable standing in front of the central-altar, the Altar of Remembrance.)

(Ringing carillon bell.)

(Close-up of the display case containing the Korean War Book of Remembrance (1950-1953). Close-up of the display case containing the Seventh Book of Remembrance (In the Service of Canada). Close-up of the case containing the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance. Close-up of the case containing Second World War Book of Remembrance (1939-1945). Close-up of the Newfoundland Book of Remembrance (1867-1949). Close-up of the South Africa—Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance (1884-1902).)

(The constable stands at the central altar. The book case is open and he turns a page. The constable runs his hand across names on the page. Head shot of the constable. He raises his face. Close-up of the officer's eyes.)

(Fade to black, piano instrumental in the background as the title The Memorial Chamber appears on screen.)

(Chest shot of a woman seated speaking to someone off camera, the text Johanna Mizgala, Curator of the House of Commons appears on screen.)

Curator of the House of Commons: The Memorial Chamber is a special space within Parliament and if the Peace Tower is the, sort of, spine of the building, then the Memorial Chamber really is its heart.

(View of the entrance of the Memorial Chamber with a focus on the central altar.)

(Pan shot of the chamber's ornate ceiling and a stained glass window.)

(Close-up of the bronze sculptor of a kneeling angel that adorns the case of the First World War Book of Remembrance.)

(Chest shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera. the text Phil White, Dominion Sculptor appears on screen.)

Dominion Sculptor: Well the altar, at least the central altar in the Memorial Chamber was created by the architect, John Pearson, to memorialize Canada's, essentially Canada's war dead from the First World War—all the people who had given their lives for king and country at the time. And, it's taken on an incredible significance because it has come to be, essentially, a focal point to memorialize not only Canada's war dead from the First World War, but also the Second War, the Korean War and other conflicts that have occurred over the last century. It's very important that these altars be replaced because, to me, it is a matter of respect, showing the utmost respect for the sacrifices that the people have made.

(Upward pan shot of the Memorial Chamber featuring the central altar then moving onto the sunlit stained glass window.)

(Upward close-up pan of page 496 of First World War Book of Remembrance.)

(Lateral pan of the side of the case of the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance.)

(Close-up pan of pages South Africa—Nile Expedition and the Second World War Books of Remembrance.)

(Chest shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera.)

Dominion Sculptor: So we decided the first thing to do was to hire an architectural historian to write a paper about the Chamber and include as much research as possible about Pearson, the architect's, intentions.

(Side view of a woman in a library taking a book from the shelf and opening it.)

(Side view of a woman in a library seated at a table, reading a book and taking notes.)

(Chest shot of a woman seated speaking to someone off camera.)

Curator of the House of Commons: Canadian soldiers from the Great War, as they called it at the time, were buried where they fell. So their bodies are in Belgium and in France. They are not here on Canadian soil. This was something that was very important—that there be a record of these individuals.

(Close-ups of various framed First World War photo.)

(Close-up of architectural drawings of the Memorial Chamber.)

(Chest shot of a woman seated speaking to someone off camera.)

Curator of the House of Commons: So early on, John Pearson, the architect. His vision was that all of the names of the soldiers, and service men and women and chaplains be enshrined in that space. But as they started to get the casualty list and they started to see the extent of the losses from the Great War, it became apparent that there was no space for all of those names on the walls. So they had to think of a different strategy, and that is why we have the Books of Remembrance.

(Image of the interior wall of the Memorial Chamber.)

(Right pan close-up of a Book of Remembrance.)

(Head shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera.)

Dominion Sculptor: The architect intended that the space would represent a sacred grove—grove implying that the central altar is surrounded by trees, by columns of stone, by elements of the design of the room that represent trees all surrounding and protecting the central altar.

(Pan shot of the Chamber's ornate ceiling.)

(Close-up of a stone carving of an owl.)

(Close-up of a small stone carving with four intertwined shamrocks.)

(Close-up of a small stone carving of the head of a mourning angel.)

(Chest shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera.)

Dominion Sculptor: So the intention of the new altars is to complement the idea of the sacred grove and introduce the element of poppies surrounding—forming part of the altars—and also surrounding the central altar. So, I came up with about a dozen different sketches—just quick thumbnail sketches—on pieces of paper and presented them to the committee.

(Foreground shot of the bronze poppy design along the legs of an altar.)

(Back view of a man at a drafting table who is working on a design.)

(Face shot of a man and showing his hand drawing.)

(Close-up a hand that is creating an altar design.)

(Side close-up of a man who is concentrating at a drafting table.)

(Chest shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera.)

Dominion Sculptor: They involved the traditional block, pieces that were more sculptural that included big 3-D figures, pieces that included large relief carvings and pieces that were more like a table, which is a traditional way that books are shown in a library. The table idea actually worked out very well because the solid blocks actually block off a large section of the floor in the room, and the floor in the room has a fairly elaborate design in the floor that is made up of stones from various battlefield sources in Europe and they form a cross in the floor. We really did not want to cover up this cross.

(Close-up pan of three thumbnail sketches on paper.)

(Downward arch shot of the floor of the Chamber showing the patterned design.)

(Close-up of a floor brass plate carving with the inscription "Vimy Ridge Hill∇70 / Crête de Vimy côte 70".)

(Close-up of a floor brass plate carving with the inscription "Passchendaele".)

(Close-up arch shot of the original architectural drawings of the Memorial Chamber floor. The cross design is pulled out and raised to portray its design.)

(Chest shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera.)

Dominion Sculptor: The current altars actually do cover up the points of the cross, but the intention is to show the cross on the floor once again.

(Upward pan of an archival image of the Memorial Chamber.)

(Left pan close-up of the central altar showing a kneeling angel at each corner.)

(Chest shot of a woman seated speaking to someone off camera.)

Curator of the House of Commons: When the Memorial Chamber was constructed initially, it only had space for the one altar. So it was designed around the altar for the First World War memorial and that altar is... The stone for the altar was a gift from Great Britain.

(Close-up of the stone carving of the Canadian Coat of Arms.)

(Right pan of the stone top of an altar with tools lying on the top of the altar.)

(Chest shot of a woman seated speaking to someone off camera.)

Curator of the House of Commons: It is Hoptonwood and the Dominion Sculptor, in crafting the new altars for the other Books of Remembrance, sought to echo the design of that original altar so that the space would be a really cohesive tribute to all the Canadian fallen.

(Close-up shot of the bronze poppy design along the leg of a new altar.)

(Downward pan of the leg of a new altar.)

(Chest shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera.)

Dominion Sculptor: Bronze was chosen for the legs for a number of reasons. Bronze is a traditional material of memorials. There was a great memorials program that was undertaken after the First World War. Bronze sculptures were done all around the country, all across the Commonwealth really. There are a number of different artisans that have been employed. There are people who are doing stone carving, shaping of stone, letter carving and there are also people who are working in a foundry doing foundry work and people who are doing the final assembly, welding and patination of the bronze. There's also a company that has been hired to do the cases themselves, which will contain the books.

(Full shot of a stone carver working in his workshop with a fire burning in the fireplace.)

(Close-up of a stone carver carving one of the inscriptions in the altars.)

(Close-up of a stone carver's hands working on the lettering of an altar.)

(Close-up of the stone carver doing letter carving on a stone altar top.)

(Side view of a welder welding the ornate bronze frame of an altar.)

(Close-up of a welder with a welding tool welding the bronze frame of an altar.)

(Side view of a craftsperson preparing the ornate bronze frame of an altar for the final finish.)

(Close-up top view of one of the new display case which will contain the books.)

(Lateral pan of a new display case with the image of a Book of Remembrance.)

(Chest shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera.)

Dominion Sculptor: It feels really good to be the creator of these altars and to have had even a small contribution to the heritage of this country—the heritage of commemorating our veterans and the commemoration of our war dead.

(Upward pan of the Memorial Chamber with the new altars.)

(Right pan of the Memorial Chamber with the central altars in the foreground and the new alters in the background.)

(Chest shot of a man seated in a workshop speaking to someone off camera.)

Dominion Sculptor: It really is an honour to have been able to have been involved in this.

(Chest shot of a woman seated speaking to someone off camera.)

Curator of the House of Commons: Every name of everyone who has fallen in service to this country is there.

(Front view of the new Korean War altars.)

(Front view of the new Seventh Book of Remembrance (In the Service of Canada) altar.)

(Front view of the new Merchant Navy altar.)

(Front view of the new Second World War altar.)

(Front view of the new War of 1812 altar.)

(Front view of the new Newfoundland altar.)

(Front view of the new South Africa—Nile altar.)

(Chest shot of a woman seated speaking to someone off camera.)

Curator of the House of Commons: And that has a very profound impact when you walk the halls of this space and you get an opportunity to go in there and be quiet. It touches you in a way you that can't always describe.

(Reverse dolly shot of the exiting the Memorial Chamber with the new altars. The gate to the Chamber closes.)

(Fade to black. The following appears on the blank screen: "A collaboration between".)

(Public Works and Government Services Canada Corporate signature)

(The emblem of the House of Commons of Canada)

(Text on screen: Video produced and created by Creative Services and Multimedia and Creative Services group at Public Works and Government Services Canada.)

(Canada Wordmark)

Stone carvings

View enlarged image of grotesques adorning the outside of the Peace Tower

Stone carvings of human and animal figures and ancient creatures stare down from the outer walls of the Peace Tower. Although commonly called gargoyles, these stonework figures are properly referred to by various other names—grotesques, reliefs and bosses—depending on the style in which they are carved.

The types of stone carvings on the Peace Tower are as follows:

More information

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