We start our tour in the Entrance Hall ‘Vestibule’, veneered in dove grey and honeyed Italian marble, with a ceiling picked out with symbols of the 4 UK nations, and a stylised Poppy of Remembrance.
The display panels offer an introduction to the Temple’s architecture (‘Peace Building‘), people (‘Peace Makers‘) and organisations (‘Peace in our Time‘) over the last century – as well as a route map and starting point for self-guided Temple Tours.
Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health was founded as the nation’s memorial to the fallen of WW1, by philanthropist David Davies of Llandinam, Powys. He had served in the trenches of France with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and returned so horrified by war that he dedicated his life to forging peace through international relations. He became known as ‘the Peacemonger’ on his elevation to the peerage in 1933, as Lord Davies of Llandinam.
Davies had first proposed a ‘Temple of Peace’ WW1 Memorial in 1919, for the site of Devonshire House in London. But it was in 1928 – on the unveiling of Wales’ National War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens, opposite the Temple of Peace – that the City of Cardiff Corporation gifted this area of land in Cathays Park to make his vision a reality.
The ‘Architects Design’ of 1928 proposes: “The treatment of this Hall is simple and dignified, walls and columns of the Greek Doric order carrying a beamed and coffered ceiling. To either side, corridors lead to the offices and staircases provide intercommunication between all floors of the building. A short flight of steps leads to an Ante-Room from which opens the bronze doors of the Temple, with steps to the Crypt below. From the Hall, the vista up the steps… to the interior of the lofty Temple, should be most impressive.”
How many different types of Marble can you spot? Within the vestibule alone, are examples of Larrys Mouchette (walls), Mereuil (floor), Grey Travertine (entrance steps) – not to mention the huge Black Marble vases in ancient Grecian style. These are a tantalising reflection of the ethos and brief given to architect Percy Thomas, for the Temple to deploy ‘materials of meaning’ from around the world: an internationalist building, with materials from many nations.