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Canada’s Parliament Buildings Remind Us of God
Every day and every hour the bells peal out the message of our Saviour's birth.

Our Members of Parliament seem to get a lot of attention. This week, I would like to draw our attention to the place they work in – Canada’s Parliaments Buildings. Did you know if you look for it, that our Parliament Buildings remind us of God?

The Gothic architecture intentionally draws our eyes upward as if in a posture of worship towards God.

Certainly, Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the U.S.S.R., was impressed when seeing Canada’s Parliament Buildings for the first time – he reportedly asked, “Is that a castle!?” When told that it was our Parliament Buildings, Mr. Gorbachev replied, “Your country must have had great dreams for your Parliamentary government to express it in such a magnificent Gothic structure.”

Our Parliament Buildings – magnificent Gothic structures indeed, are an enduring legacy of great dreams. Gothic architecture has been described as being engineered for heaven – “that humbled man and glorified God.” In a number of ways, if one looks for it, Canada’s Parliament Buildings remind us of God – through its Gothic architecture, in the Scripture verses engraved throughout the buildings and in the musical carillon that rings out hourly from the Peace Tower.  Perhaps this sounds presumptuous, but consider the following examples.

The Parliament Buildings inspire something akin to awe. Walk past the Centennial Flame at the front of the building, and immediately you are drawn to the Peace Tower which rises above the Centre Block, pointing to the heavens. Proceed through the front doors and again eyes are drawn upwards to the Gothic artwork of the vaulted arches in the central rotunda. In the Library of Parliament, the oldest structure, the woodwork is remarkable, with floral designs hand carved directly into the wood. It is said that no two carvings are the same. Even still, our eyes are drawn heavenward from the statue of Queen Victoria on top of a granite block, to the expanse of the golden dome overhead. The Gothic architecture intentionally draws our eyes upward as if in a posture of worship towards God.

Engraved forever in the Parliamentary Buildings are Scripture verses which remind us of God’s dominion and our continued reliance on Him. In 1921, as a permanent testimony to the convictions of our forbears, architect John A. Pearson commissioned the following Scriptures over each of the exterior arched windows of the Peace Tower:

  • Over the East window: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea” (Psalm 72:8).
  • Over the South window: “Give the King thy judgment, O God, and thy righteousness unto the King’s son” (Psalm 72:1).
  • Over the West window: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

And these are but a few of the many Scripture verses etched throughout the buildings. In an age where there seems to be no enduring legacies, the testimony of our forefathers endures in the Scriptures, written in stone and accessible for all to view simply by walking up to the Parliament buildings.

The music that rings out from the carillons for 15 minutes each day at noon may also turn our thoughts toward God. The carillons are made of 53 bells, weighing from 2.5 kg to 10,160 kg (approximately the weight of a city transit bus). The largest bell is the one that is heard ringing in the new hour. Of particular interest is that on this largest bell, inscribed in 1926 at the request of former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, is the Scripture verse announcing the birth of Jesus Christ to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men” (Luke 2:14). While politically correct thinking occasionally attempts to dilute the true meaning of Christmas, every hour of every day there is a reminder of the angelic message proclaiming the Messiah’s birth.

Recalling Gorbachev’s words regarding the great dreams our government must have had to build such a magnificent Gothic structure, it is unfortunate that most people don’t realize they’re being reminded to give glory to God. The clues are there, however, for those who are seeking. In our modern troubled times, it is reassuring to recall that the great dreams of our forebears endure in the testimony and legacy left to us, embedded in the very structure of our Parliament buildings.

Douglas Cryer was formerly a director of public policy for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.




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