National Monument to the Forefathers – Plymouth, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

National Monument to the Forefathers

Plymouth's huge yet little-known memorial to the Pilgrims. 


Sitting atop a hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and gazing across the sea toward Plymouth, England, is the largest freestanding solid-granite monument in the world. For something so big, it is strangely little known to its neighbors.

Made as a tribute to the Pilgrims who landed the Mayflower at Plymouth and their religious values, and reaching 81 feet tall, the National Monument to the Forefathers took 30 years to build in the late 19th century. A 36-foot-tall sculpture representing “Faith” tops the monument. Sitting on buttresses extending from four sides of the octagonal pedestal are smaller allegorical figures, each carved from a single block of granite.

The Pilgrim Society, who commissioned the work, maintained the monument until 2001 when it gave it to the state. It was originally visible for miles around, but today, thanks to the growth of trees and the development of new buildings, many residents are unaware of the colossal monument in their midst.

The smaller allegorical figures are each flanked by marble reliefs of still more and still smaller allegorical figures: “Morality” is joined by “Prophet” and Evangelist,” “Law” by Justice” and “Mercy,” Education by “Youth” and “Wisdom,” and Liberty” by “Tyranny Overthrown” and “Peace.” On the front side of each buttress is a depiction in marble of a scene from Pilgrim history, and positioned between the buttresses are the monument’s dedication, lists of the Pilgrims, and a quote from William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony.

Know Before You Go

It's a bit away from all of the standard Plymouth tourist attractions like Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower. It's a tad inland, but in the same general area.

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