14 Moving Monuments and Memorials to the 'Titanic'
By Lucie Grace
It’s no surprise that the most famous maritime disaster of all time is commemorated with plaques and memorials around the world, many of which are along the ill-fated ship’s route.
Construction of the RMS Titanic commenced in a colossal shipyard in Belfast, in what is now Northern Ireland, in March of 1909. Belfast was a shipbuilding epicenter of the British Empire, and White Star Line had commissioned Harland & Wolff shipyard to build the second of their three ocean liners, which would occupy the city’s shipbuilders full-time for two years.
The Titanic finally left Belfast on the evening of April 2, 1912. It headed to the port of Southampton, on the south coast of England, where passengers boarded for the maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. After making stops in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, the ship set sail for New York City with 2240 passengers and crew on board.
As we all know, on the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg off the coast of Canada and sank in less than three hours, with only 705 souls surviving.
There are memorials to the Titanic at numerous destinations across Europe and North America, but these 14 mostly track the route of the infamous ship and are particularly meaningful to visit.
1. Titanic Memorial Garden // Belfast, Northern Ireland
The largest space that commemorates the disaster is the Titanic Memorial Garden in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The pretty, flora-laden green is home to numerous statues and plaques that remember individuals and workers involved.
Notable sights include the the Belfast Men Memorial, dedicated to the locals aboard the ship and the Edward James Harland Statue, which celebrates one of the co-founders of the Harland & Wolff shipyard (Harland was also a leading figure in 19th-century Belfast industry and politics). While in the gardens you can also visit the Lord Pirrie Memorial Plinth, which honors William Pirrie, the managing director of the Harland & Wolff shipyard and a key player in the planning and creation of the Titanic and its sister vessel the Olympic.
2. SS Nomadic // Belfast, Northern Ireland
The White Star Line used this ship to ferry passengers and luggage between the docks and larger vessels. The Nomadic was based in France and carried people to the Titanic from the port in Cherbourg on the evening of April 10, 1912. Passengers boarding the Titanic here in France included millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim, who sank with the ship, and American socialite Margaret "Molly" Brown, who survived the disaster.
The ship spent years as a floating restaurant on the River Seine in Paris until it was purchased in 2006 by the Department of Social Development in Northern Ireland. The Nomadic underwent restoration in Belfast by the Harland & Wolff shipyard and reopened to the public on June 1, 2013.
3. Titanica // Belfast, Northern Ireland
This life-size bronze sculpture by Irish artist Rowan Gillespie weighs three-quarters of a ton. It stands in front of the Titanic Belfast building and was unveiled on March, 27, 2012, in an unused part of the Harland & Wolff shipyard. The sculpture is a diving female figure reminiscent of a ship’s figurehead and represents "hope and positivity."
4. Titanic Hotel // Belfast, Northern Ireland
This red sandstone Victorian building is where Harland & Wolff carried out the design work on the famously ill-fated ship. It’s now a luxury hotel in the “Titanic Quarter” on Queens Road. It’s full of Titanic models, blueprints, designs, and posters. The three-story office building was built around 1900 and much of the building's interior has been restored to its original glory. You can book a tour of the historic structure.
5. The Grapes Pub // Southampton, England
This pub in Southampton has a Titanic tale to tell. As the closest pub to Berth 44—where the Titanic was docked—it hosted many of the ship’s crew for their last drink ashore before the vessel set sail. They apparently cut it rather close and were drinking all morning on April 10, 1912, as was tradition before a long voyage. The pub is proud of its connection to the Titanic and is full of images and memorabilia for customers to view.
6. The Titanic Memorial Stone // Southampton, England
An appropriately placed plaque at Dock Gate 4, right on the site of where the crew and passengers boarded the Titanic, was unveiled in 1993, on the 81st anniversary of the sinking. The brass plaque reads, “In memory of the passengers and crew of R.M.S Titanic which sailed from the nearby Berth 43 on her maiden voyage on 10 April 1912 and sank on 15 April 1912 with the loss of over 1500 lives.” Perhaps a typo, as the ship sailed from Berth 44.
7. Titanic Musicians' Memorial // Southampton, England
One of the most stirring pieces of Titanic imagery is the band playing as the ship sank, valiantly trying to keep the mood calm. This white marble memorial to the musicians is set into the wall on the side of a building on Cumberland Place. The names of all eight members of the band—W. Hartley, C. Krins, R. Bricoux, W. T. Brailey, J. Woodward, J. F. Clarke, J. L. Hulme, P. C. Taylor'—are displayed in a circle, alongside the inscription, “They died at their posts like men.”
8. La Cité de la Mer // Cherbourg, France
This museum in Cherbourg, France,—the first port of call after the Titanic left Southampton—presents displays and artifacts relating to the disaster in the former Baggage Hall. The Art Deco space was once the Transatlantic cruise terminal. It covers stories of emigration as well as the shipwreck, bringing the sad event to life with a presentation that loops every 30 minutes.
9. Cobh Commemorative Memorial // Cobh, Republic of Ireland
Formerly known as Queenstown before Irish independence, Cobh was the final port of call before the Titanic set sail across the Atlantic Ocean. It didn’t stop here long on April 11, 1912; it took just a few hours to pick up 1385 sacks of mail and 123 passengers, many of whom traveled third-class.
The brass memorial plaque is dedicated to those Irish emigrants, reading: “Commemorating R.M.S. Titanic and her last port of call on her maiden and final voyage, April 11, 1912. In special memory of the Irish emigrants and all those who lost their lives in this great tragedy. Ah dheis dé go raibh an anmacha.” The Gaelic closing line translates as "At God's right hand are the souls".
10. Titanic Experience // Cobh, Republic of Ireland
This museum with “experiential exhibits” is set in the former offices of the White Star Line company on the Cobh harbor front. On April 11, 1912, passengers gathered here in the White Star Line building before boarding a small ferry to the Titanic. The museum invites you to follow in their footsteps, complete with a re-creation of what their cabins would have looked like.
11. Pier 54 // New York City
If you visit Little Island at Pier 55 in New York City, you’ll find a vibrant urban park. But it was once where nearly 30,000 people came out in terrible weather, late at night, to see the survivors of the shipwreck arrive in the U.S; rescued by the Carpathia, they landed at the Cunard terminal.
But Pier 54 itself has seen better days: All that’s left of the grand cruise terminal Titanic survivors would have witnessed is the steel archway. Squint on a sunny day and you’ll be able to read the words Cunard Line and Cunard White Star Line marked into the steelwork.
12. Titanic Memorial Lighthouse // New York City
This roughly 60-foot-tall lighthouse in memorial to the Titanic first opened a year after the disaster, in a ceremony carried out on April 15, 1913. More than 200 people attended, including friends and family of those who perished in the disaster.
13. Women’s Titanic Memorial // Washington, D,C., U.S.
Not quite on the Titanic’s route, but nearby and impactful, is the 13-foot-tall sculpture of an open-armed man carved from a block of granite. It was designed by American sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and unveiled on May 26, 1931, to a large audience that included President Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.
The sculpture, "Erected by the Women of America,” represents the brave men who lost their lives by giving space on the lifeboats to women and children. The plaque on the back of the plinth the sculpture stands on reads: "To the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the ignorant and learned, all who gave their lives nobly to save women and children."
14. Halifax Cemeteries // Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
The last stop on our Titanic tour is a somber one: The final resting place of many Titanic passengers whose bodies were found at sea. Though many were lost to the ocean, more than 300 bodies were recovered by the steamers Mackay-Bennett, Minia, Montmagny, and Algerine, contracted by the White Star Line, in the weeks after the disaster.
Of those, 150 were laid to rest in Halifax, Canada. The Fairview Lawn Cemetery hosts the graves of 121 souls lost; the graves of a further 19 victims are held at the Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery. Additionally, a small plot with a group of 10 headstones can be found in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery.