Masterpiece. No matter where you are (and where you’ve been), I’m certain you’ve stumbled upon something extraordinary: a place that blows your mind; a work of art or object that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way. – Cheri Lucas Rowlands
My choice of a masterpiece was almost missed. Nestled in a neighborhood, on a hill, overlooking Plymouth Bay, stands the National Monument to the Forefathers. My brother-in-law suggested that we see it, otherwise I might have overlooked it on my trip to Plymouth last Spring. I’m glad I didn’t!
National Monument to the Forefathers – Plymouth, Massachusetts
Standing at 81 feet (24.69 meters), the sometimes called “Forefathers Monument” is the largest, free-standing, granite monument in the world. Primary designer and sculptor, Hammatt Billings of Boston, originally planned the monument to stand at 150 feet (just one foot shorter than the statue of Liberty). However, a reduction in height occurred due to a shortage of funds during the Civil War.
“…for the cause of civil and religious liberty.”
Standing atop the monument, “Faith” holds a Bible in one hand and points heavenward with the other. This part of the monument is 36-feet-tall and weighs 180 tons itself. Four buttresses, each with a 15-foot-tall figure, jut out below. These represent the virtues of Liberty, Morality, Law, and Education, all core values of the Pilgrims, who settled in Plymouth in 1620. Bas-relief sculptures are found beneath the four figures, depicting scenes such as the Pilgrims departing England, landing on the shores of Plymouth and encountering Native Americans.
In addition to the dedication panel (see right), three other panels feature the names of the Mayflower passengers and a quote of William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony (see below).
“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing and give being to all things that are…Let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise” – Governor William Bradford
As “Faith” has such a prominent place in this masterpiece, I’m reminded what the writer of the Book of Hebrews in the Bible said about faith:
1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith. 5 By faith Enoch was taken away so he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his removal he was approved, since he had pleased God. 6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:1-6 HCSB).
Just as the Hebrew forefathers won God’s approval for their exercise of faith in Him (v. 3), our country’s forefathers won the approval of God for their faith.
Bas-relief of Pilgrims Arriving at Plymouth
Had it not been threatening rain, I would have enjoyed lingering longer at the monument. Our brief time there seemed more poignant because of the timing of our visit – the week of the Boston Marathon bombing – and Plymouth’s closeness to Boston. The freedoms we have in the United States did not come easily. Due to forces within and without, there is an erosion of some of those freedoms. We cannot take our civil and religious liberties lightly, knowing the great sacrifice demonstrated by our forefathers to secure them. However, my faith in the same God that the Pilgrims trusted by faith gives me an abiding, eternal security that no government can truly offer and no person can take away.