Did you know Kansas City is home to the National World War I Memorial?
… Just kidding. If you’ve ever seen the downtown skyline, you know it wouldn’t be complete without the Liberty Memorial Tower. But you may not have noticed some of the other unique architectural elements + symbols carefully placed around the memorial to spread the message of peace and honor “the war to end all wars.”
Flanking the south entrance of the Liberty Memorial are two sphinxes, with feline bodies and giant wings.
- Sphinxes appear in many cultures, often representing strength, intelligence, and royalty. These sphinxes are similar to lamassu, Assyrian + Mesopotamian protective deities.
The Liberty Memorial sphinxes cover their eyes with their wings.
- “Memory,” the east (France)-facing sphinx, is shielding its eyes from war.
- “Future,” the west-facing sphinx, shields its eyes from the unknown.
Four sword-bearing Guardian Spirits protect the museum from the top of Liberty Memorial Tower.
- Each stands 40-feet tall. That’s about one fourth of the tower’s 217 feet.
- The spirits’ names are “Honor,” “Courage,” “Patriotism,” and “Sacrifice.”
- Robert Aitken carved the statues. He is best known for designing the West Pediment of the US Supreme Court Building.
Two pairs of empty cinerary urns stand at the entrances of Memory Hall and Exhibit Hall.
- The laurel wreath designs are symbols of victory in Ancient Greece and Rome.
- Each wreath bears an emblem of one service branch: the Army and Navy, the Red Cross, Agriculture and Manufacturing, and Transportation.
The Great Frieze
The 148-feet by 18-feet Great Frieze — a horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration — runs along the North Wall.
- It shows the progression from war (soldiers, wounded, and mourners) to peace (musicians, builders, and children).
- Part of its inscription reads, “Let us strive on to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace…”
- The Frieze was sculpted by Edmond Amateis, an Italian immigrant to the US and WWI veteran.