The proud and combative Scottish, since ancient times, proved to be a people who, despite not having a single political, cultural and linguistic identity, gave a hard time to anyone who tried to invade their territory. Not did they surrender to the Romans, the conquerors of nearly the entire known world of their time, and who had occupied the rest of Britain. But not only that, the Scots were to make raids in the territories dominated by the Romans, so that the emperor Hadrian decided to build a defensive wall, the wall of Hadrian, to prevent the incursions of the Scottish indomitable.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the arrival of many barbarian populations, the Scots always fought to maintain their autonomy, threatened principally by England.
So, many battles were fought by the Scots to counter the English claims, and many men won a place of honor in history, for the courage and heroism shown against the enemy.
William Wallace is one of the most important and well-known figures in Scottish history, so as to deserve a monument that has become one of the country’s most important landmarks, the symbol of Scotland: the National Wallace Monument, a tower built on the Abbey Craig hill, near the ruins of the Abbey of Cambuskenneth, not far from the village of Stirling.
The monument was designed by architect JT Rochead, and built between 1861 and 1869 at a cost of about 18,000 pounds of the time, a sum that, re-evaluated to date, is really significant. The sum was reached thanks to a public subscription, to which many Scots emigrated abroad also contributed.
Historically, in 1296 Edward I of England, known as “the hammer of the Scots”, invaded Scotland, beginning a long series of wars. William Wallace, the youngest son of a Scottish knight, never stopped opposing the conquest, fomenting rebellion against the British.
On 11 September 1297 the Scots, under the command of William Wallace and Andrew Moray, defeated the British army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The Wallace Monument is located right on that rocky spur from which the Scottish hero seems to have observed the gathering of English forces, just before the battle. After being defeated during the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, Wallace managed to escape the English for several years, but in 1305 he was captured by a Scottish knight, loyal to the King of England. On 23 August 1305 he was executed following the procedure reserved for traitors: first he was hanged, then quartered, and finally his head was stuck in a post and exposed on the London Bridge.
The monument is 67 meters high, divided into four levels, in addition to the ground floor; on the first floor there is the Armory, where it’s possible study the development of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, thanks to a luminous map that describes the events that occurred on September, 11 1297. Some objects are also exhibited, such as a sword 1.63 meters long, which apparently belonged to Wallace.
On the second floor is the Hall of Heroes, where the busts of many famous Scotsmen are displayed, while on the third floor it’s possible learn about the history of the construction of this Victorian-Gothic monument, which has now become a national reference point.
A curiosity: in 1996, the sculptor Tom Church created the statue “Freedom”, inspired by the movie Bravehearth. The face is that of Mel Gibson, the actor who played William Wallace, and the statue was placed near the monument. The work was so unpopular that it was regularly vandalized and was, at the end, removed, giving it back to the sculptor. He tried in vain to sell it at auction, but even today he is situated in his backyard!