The Cairn of Peace is an altogether unique monument. Unlike many other war memorials, it is not dedicated only to the heroic victors of a battle, nor to its valiant vanquished - but to all those who fell, without discrimination.
Moreover, it is not the work of any state, government, church or official institution - but rather of a simple group of friends headed by the priest and secondary-school teacher Father Alois Slovák (1859-1930). The idea of establishing a worthy place of rest for the remains of the fallen became a reality in the years 1910-1914, when the Cairn of Peace was built in the then current Art Nouveau style, according to a design by the renowned architect Josef Fanta. The building was financed first and foremost by public subscription and from donations, with contributions in part coming from governmental and other institutions in Russia, Austro-Hungary and France. The monument was to have been officially inaugurated in the summer of 1914, but this was forestalled by the outbreak of the First World War, and so it was not opened to the public until 1923.
The Cairn is constructed of quarried stone, reaches a height of 26 metres and at a distance its shape recalls that of a pyramid. The ellipsoid which crowns it is conceived as representing the planet Earth and into it is set an Old Slavonic cross, which symbolises Redemption. The plaques beneath the ellipsoid (not originally there) - apart from the text expressing the monument’s message: “The Cairn of Peace fights on the battlefield of the world for world peace” - today bear Czech, Russian and French inscriptions. The Czech text is a quotation from Czechoslovakia’s first president, T.G. Masaryk: “Not by violence but peaceably, not by the sword but by the plough, not by blood, but by work, not by one life set against another…” The Russian and French inscriptions contain the supplicatory words of the Order of Mass for the Dead: “Grant them eternal rest, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine on them.” The four shield bearers guarding the monument personify France, Austria, Russia - and Moravia, which was laid waste by the warring armies.
Over the entrance to the chapel with its sculpture of grieving mother and bride the spirit of the place is expressed with the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah “Interfecti mei resurgent - My fallen shall arise again”. The interior of the monument is a square chapel, symbolising respect for life and expressing an anti-war notion: in the middle of the chapel, whose vaulting creates a very special kind of acoustic, a marble slab closes off the entrance to an underground ossuary. The remains of the fallen found in the vicinity were – and are to this day - stored here. (Anthropological research has shown that the ossuary contains several thousand bones and the bone fragments of many dozens of individuals, not just men, but women too, belonging to various ethnic groups, including non-European.)