Visiting Big Ben in London England

Big Ben it’s one the most recognized clocks in all the world. The big clock tower attached to the north side of the Palace of Westminster, an icon of the charming and enchanting town of London, England.

If visiting London, this tower is a must-see and calls for the classic touristy pictures of holding it on your palm or between your thumb and forefinger. After all, the clock has been keeping time for over 150 years, and world-over it is the largest four-faced clock tower that chimes.

History

Although the original tower was built in 1288, the current structure was erected in 1834. The clock tower, along with the new Parliament alongside it, was built in a Gothic Revival style designed by Agustus Pugin. The design for the structure was Pugin’s last before he went mad and eventually came to his death.

In traditional British style, Pugin found a way to honor the Queen with his work. A Latin inscription found at the base of each clock reads, “Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Primam.” This translates in English to, “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.”

Interestingly, for two years during World War I, the clock did not ring, nor was it lit at night. This was to prevent any potential attack by the German army on the iconic structure. The practice of keeping the clock faces dark during the night was continued during World War II for the same reason of avoiding an attack.

Nickname

Officially, the bell in the base of the tower is known as the Great Bell. Today however, the name Big Ben is applied to the tower, the clock, and the bell all in one. There is some debate on this topic, but not enough to cause any huge uproar.

Cultural Significance

Aside from being a symbol recognized world-over to represent the United Kingdom, this tower, clock, and bell hold a magnitude of cultural significance to the citizens of London. It is something that they cherish and take a lot of pride in – much like Americans adore the Statue of Liberty.

As one could imagine, the bell and clock tower is a popular place for citizens and tourists to ring in the New Year. In addition, Big Ben marks Remembrance Day on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. Once this has been chimes have sounded, citizens observe two minutes of silence to remember when an armistice was signed between Germany and the Allied powers ending The Great War.

Because of the popularity of this cultural icon, the tunes of Big Ben’s chimes have been adopted by many clock towers all over the world. Unfortunately, this has watered down the significance and individuality of those chime patterns, but it just shows what great influence this landmark structure has had on the rest of the world.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: ** Maurice **