While I haven’t seen this amazing bronze statue of Lady Justice – from the Latin Justitia (Iustitia) – at the entry way to the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa I am intrigued by it.
The statue is nothing less than a steadfast Justitia, a Roman goddess, standing vigil over the Court.
She is dark.
She is stern.
She is gothic.
She is menacing.
She is powerful.
Justitia’s arms are wrapped around her sword.
No scales of justice in her hand.
No blind-fold. She sees all with eyes wide open.
Justitia is not alone at the Supreme Court building.
She & her sister Truth – from the Latin Veritas, also a Roman goddess – stand tall at 3 metres high. Both are easily recognizable as important parts of the Supreme Court, as monuments in fact.
From either side of the Court building these bronze statues look down over the stairs leading up to the Court’s entrance from where they see all.
Veritas is on the left as you look at the building from the front.
In contrast to Justitia, Veritas seems to be pointing at the latin word Veritas on the front of the large tome she carries perhaps reminding us that the search for Truth, the facts, is paramount in Canadian law & justice.
She looks up in earnest, longingly, perhaps weighed down by her role in ensuring that Truth prevails.
Better explained here:
Somewhat ironically, the statues have become symbols of the Court and an integral part of its legal iconography. Consider the example of Veritas, a Roman goddess. She is typically depicted as a young virgin dressed in white robes (Mercatante, 1988, p. 643). In Allward’s image of the figure, she is seen clutching a large book with the Latin word Veritas inscribed on it, which might be construed as representing the written laws of Canada, though, given the original context Allward had in mind, we cannot assume as much.9
In any case, Veritas provides a dramatic contrast with her darker, more menacing-looking sister Iustitia, who is standing nearby. She looks slightly upwards with her fingers pointing to the book that appears to be weighing her down. Part of her hair is showing, as well as her neck, upper chest, part of her right foot and toes. Allward has given her a plaintive look as though she is burdened by the grief that she bears for the death of King Edward VII, or perhaps of administering justice. Possibly Allward intended for the two to be juxtaposed to represent the duality of justice; at once enlightened, humane and impartial in its pursuit of the facts (Veritas), while at the same time a harsh defender of the social order always ready to punish those who break the law (Iustitia).
The above images & accompanying post from ‘Seeking Truth and Justice‘ at Urbsite give an introductory insight into the historical story of the two statues along with Peace & King Edward VII.
Originally, Truth and Justice were intended to honour King Edward VII as part of his memorial in Ottawa.
Each week ‘City Unlimited’ will examine a memorial, sculpture or work of public art that defines our urban outdoor space. These are more than inanimate objects; they are structures with surprisingly rich histories. It is our goal to bring these objects to life and tell you their stories.
Two statues originally commissioned to be part of a monument honouring King Edward VII, sat for more than 50 years in a box. Some say they were hidden under a parking lot, others say they were lost in government storage. But in 1969, Truth and Justice were discovered and installed in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Today, when you walk toward the Supreme Court of Canada, you can’t help but notice the imposing art deco structure of the building, adorned by a château-style roof. Built in the 1930s, the grey building is a few hundred metres from a bluff overlooking the Ottawa River.
If you look closely however, you’ll see that on either side of the building and almost blending into the background, are a pair of bronze statues, each three-metres high.
They are landmarks in their own right. The statues of Truth and Justice – from the Latin Veritas and Justicia – loom over the stairs leading up to the court’s entrance.
In Roman mythology, Veritas was the goddess of Truth. Portrayed as a young woman dressed in white, it is believed she hid in a holy well because she was so elusive. With delicate facial features and a long flowing gown, Veritas points to a book in hand inscribed “Veritas”.
Justicia, or goddess of Justice, is also more commonly known as Lady Justice. A fixture of many courts and universities around the world, she is frequently depicted carrying scales representing impartiality, a double-edged sword symbolizing reason and justice and wearing a blindfold for objectivity. This statue only carries a sword.
Walter Seymour Allward was born in Toronto in 1876. By the time of his death in 1955, the Globe and Mail had labeled him “Canada’s most distinguished sculptor.”
Allward is probably best known for the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France. But he is also the man behind the two Supreme Court statues.
In 1910, King Edward VII of Britain died. Two years later Allward was commissioned to design a memorial dedicated to the King. The monument was to have Truth and Justice flanking a statue of Edward, but with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, and the statues completed, the memorial project was put on hold.
Truth and Justice were forgotten, lost or maybe even hidden. The mystery surrounding the missing statues continues to mark Canada’s recent past—for close to 50 years they were out of sight. It’s not even clear if the sculptor knew where they were.
Allward went on to design and create a memorial commemorating the capture of Vimy Ridge by Canadians and the four-day battle during which thousands died. The project took him 14 years and the monument was inaugurated in 1936.
On April 25, 1969, the Globe and Mail reported that “heroic ten-foot-tall statues of Truth and Justice have been dug out of storage after more than 50 years in a Government warehouse, and officials are wondering what to do with them.”
Others, including a Supreme Court of Canada education guide, say the statues were found in wooden crates “buried under a parking lot.”
The Supreme Court building, which was completed in 1941, was finally chosen as the final home for the statues. They were erected in 1970.
A 1988 Ottawa Citizen report, quoted Allward as saying, “Through truth and justice war might cease and peace would descend over the earth.”
Lost in pensive thought, the statues have a solemn look about them; they are a perfect representation of Canada’s highest court so much so that you might be inclined to think Veritas and Justica were cast specifically for the building. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Allward died in 1955. His statues remained in storage for 14 more years before finally being retrieved and installed outside the Supreme Court of Canada (via City Unlimited – Profiles of Ottawa’s outdoor spaces: The real truth behind the story of Truth and Justice)
Could this be Justitia? Don’t think so.
I love these aged & weather-beaten gothic looking concrete statues often found in old cemeteries.
This statue has a softer, more serene look.
Perhaps the lady is Clementia, the Roman goddess of Mercy, a lady of Compassion, Forbearance & Kindness.
And perhaps Mercy watches over the graveyard looking for lost souls searching for absolution from sin before Final Judgment.
Perhaps the lady is that Lady, Our Lady. The blessed virgin Mary.
Us Catholic girls, good or bad, know Mary personifies Mercy. She is Kindness & Gentleness. She is Forgiveness, Penance & Leniency. She is Absolution, Redemption & Salvation. Such Catholic things!
Justitia? Again, don’t think so.
It’s a bronze & blue statue known as the Blue Lady.
Perhaps it is a goddess of Mercy or the Virgin Mary.
Soft & sad & gothic.
A goddess of Mercy?
Again, perhaps it’s Mary, the one & only Mary, the Blessed Virgin.
This statue is at the Père Lachaise Graveyard in Paris I believe.