As part of our summer study tours, the university students and I had a guided tour the interior of the Parliament buildings, focusing upon the debating chamber of the House of Commons and also the Senate. The corridors of the House of Commons building are also fascinating, as they are as lined with interesting painting of the good and worthy leaders of Canada from past generations. The architecture of the Parliament is a restrained neo-gothicism, still with much interesting detail. But we were told that the original building, constrcuted in the 1870s, was even more elaborate. There was a terribly fire during World War I that destroyed the original Parliamentary Building, and while a new very handsome legislative temple was constructed on the footprint of the original, apparently it was not as "over-the-top" decorated as the earlier version.
The Parliamentary Library survived the 1917 fire, and it is probably most people's favorite section of the building. It shows what the Victorian Canadians were capable of building when they set their minds to it. Our tour gave us a glimpse of the library, but because it is still a working library, we had to be very quiet and circumspect inside, and we were not allowed to take flash photography either.
The Parliament Buildings of Canada are as fine a neo-Gothic complex you are going to visit anywhere. These wonderful buildings sit dramatically over the Ottawa River gorge. The buildings actually date from 1859, however the most important building, the Centre Block, is actually a reconstruction of an earlier building that burnt down in 1916. Fortunately the Library, located in the rear of the building, was saved. This beautiful circular room is superbly decorated with carved wooden walls. I think that it might be one the most stunning interiors in all of Canada. Also very importantly, the Centre Block is the location of Canada's House of Commons and it's Senate. Visitors can watch parliamentry debate go on here when parliament is in session, which for my taste is not enough. You can also take free tours of the Centre Block which are quite good in my opinion. This is a wonderful way to see some of the splendidly ornate decorations that are through the building that you would otherwise miss. From the exterior, the building is dominated by the high Peace Tower which was added in 1927 to the facade of the building in honour of those who died during the First World War.
The Parliament Buildings also is host to a Changing of the Guard ceremony similar to what you might see in London. Red tuniced, bearskin hat soldiers in parade. These are performed during the summer months between 9:30am to 10:00am
The Memorial Chamber ( measuring 24’ by 24’ only) is a very special place.
The focal point of the room is the Altar of Remembrance with the first Book of Remembrance wich names 66,655 individuals who lost their lives in the First World War.
A second Book of Remembrance listing 44,893 names from the Second World War was eventually placed in the Chamber in 1957.
There are seven books housed in the Memorial Chamber.
'Pages of the Books of Remembrance are turned every morning at eleven o'clock, according to perpetual calendars. These calendars allow for each page in each Book to appear at least once in the course of a year.'
The Canadian House of Commons chamber is located in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings on Parliament Hill.
The chamber is 21 metres long, 16 metres wide, has seats for 320 members of parliament and 580 persons in the upper gallery that runs around the second level of the room.
The speaker's chair is an exact replica of that found in the British House of Commons and green color reflecting the colour used in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
The commons chamber has 12 stained glass windows, each of them contains approximately 2,000 pieces of hand-blown glass.
The Senate Chamber, or the "Red Chamber", is where senators from Canada's provinces and territories meet to consider and debate legislation.
The Senate Chamber is located at the east end of the Centre Block the building on Parliament Hill dominated by the Peace Tower.
'At the north end of the Chamber is a dais (raised platform) with a pair of thrones, the larger of the two for the Queen or the Governor General, and the smaller for the spouse of the Queen or the Governor General.
The coffered ceiling, decorated in gold leaf, depicts the French fleur-de-lys, the English lion, the Irish harp, the Welsh dragon and the Scottish thistle, together with Canadian maple leaves. Two massive bronze chandeliers, weighing approximately two tonnes each, hang from the ceiling.'
Peace Tower is the part of the center block. It is a free standing bell tower of about 91 meters (300 ft.) tall.
Visitors are able to tour the tower and can access the outlook near the very top which offers great views of the Ottawa area.
Ottawa's Parliament Hill is not just a symbol of national pride for Canadians but one of the most significant heritage sites in Canada.
In 1976 the Parliament Buildings and the public grounds around the buildings were designated as National Historic Sites.
The Library of Parliament is the last untouched part of that larger building's original incarnation, after it burned down in 1916.
The form and decor of Library of Parliament remain essentially authentic.
The building is formed as a chapter house, separated from the main body of the Centre Block by a corridor.
'The walls, supported by a ring of 16 flying buttresses, are load bearing, double-wythe masonry, consisting of a hydraulic lime rubble fill core between an interior layer of finished stone and rustic Nepean sandstone on the exterior.'
The main reading room (see pictures) rises to a vaulted ceiling and the walls and stacks are lined with white pine panelling carved into a variety of textures, flowers, masks, and mythical creatures.
Guided tours of the Parliament Buildings are free to visitors.
All visitors to the Parliament Buildings are required to undergo security screening at the entrance.
The Parliament Buildings are a national and absolute treasure to visit.
The East Block has been maintained as a historically accurate reflection of conditions at the time of Canada's confederation and see costumed persons presenting historical characters from centuries past.
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