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THE NATIONAL MONUMENT TO THE FOREFATHERS

The National Monument to the Forefathers
The National Monument to the Forefathers

No trip to Plymouth is complete without a visit to the National Monument to the Forefathers. Conceived in 1820 with the establishing of the Pilgrim Society, the idea did not solidify until 1850 when the Society resolved to erect it. The finished monument was dedicated on August 1, 1889. It has stood in its present location for more than 100 years.

The monument is colossal in size, a fitting tribute to our forefathers. Solid granite, it stands 81 feet tall from its base to its top. The central figure of Faith is 180 tons and stands 36 feet tall atop a 45-foot pedestal. The circumference of the head at her forehead is nearly 14 feet, and her uplifted finger is over two feet long.

To get the most out of your visit, you might want to begin by reading the principal dedication on the monument. Additionally, two other tablets list the names of the passengers on the Mayflower along with their principal benefactor, Robert Cushman.

The figures on the monument are intended to be read from top to bottom, beginning with the personification of Faith who symbolizes the virtue which inspired the Pilgrim's journey to the New World.

The four bas-relief scenes of the Pilgrims' history are meant to illustrate how these ideals were transferred to the New World. It is a large, classically-draped female standing with one foot on Plymouth Rock. She is holding an open Bible in her left hand while her right hand is uplifted to heaven. Standing on her pedestal, she looks downward as if to those she is addressing, seeming to call them to trust in a higher power."

The central figure is surrounded by four ancillary figures (Morality, Education, Law, and Liberty), seated on diagonal buttresses, each weighing 20 to 25 tons and standing approximately 15 feet in height. They are meant to represent "the principles upon which the Pilgrim Fathers proposed to found their Commonwealth" and they illustrate how these ideals were transferred to the new world. Smaller figures on the sides of each ancillary figure are meant to amplify the message of the primary figures.

Morality is a woman holding a book inscribed "GOD" in her left hand and the scroll of Revelation in her right. On one side of the throne is the Prophet Moses holding the tablets of the Law and looking toward heaven; and on the other side is an Evangelist writing in a book).

Education is a draped woman pointing to a book in her lap. The small figures in the niches to the right and left of her chair represent Wisdom and Youth .

Law is portrayed as a draped male also holding a book. His chair is supported by Justice (a woman with scales and sword) and Mercy.

Liberty is a helmeted male, draped with a lion's skin, cradling a sword in his right arm and holding a broken chain in his left. The figures in niches on the sides of his chair represent Peace (a woman holding a horn containing food and drink) and Tyranny (a king laid low). These are meant to symbolize peace resting under the protection of liberty, tyranny having been overthrown by its power.

The National Monument can be easily reached by traveling just a block west on Rte. 44 where it intersects with Court Street (Rte. 3A) and continuing north on Allerton Street for a little more than a block. It is within easy walking distance from Plymouth Rock and Pilgrim Hall. If you prefer to drive, there is plenty of parking beside the monument.

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