Royal Arcade

Melbourne, Victoria

The oldest surviving shopping arcade in Australia, Melbourne's Royal Arcade is famous for being watched over by two figures of the apocalypse.

- © Robby Virus

What Is The Royal Arcade?

The Burlington Arcade of Australia, the Royal Arcade is an elegant Italianate shopping arcade that, together with Block and Centreway Arcade, forms part of Melbourne's network of historic passages and laneways. It was designed by Charles Webb- who also designed South Melbourne Town Hall and the Windsor Hotel- and first opened in 1870, making it the oldest arcade in Melbourne and the oldest surviving arcade in the whole of Australia.

It has a high glass roof and rows of arched windows making it a light-filled space, stunning to walk through. Its most notable feature however are two seven foot figures installed 25 years after the arcade itself opened.

- © Lesley A Butler

The Statues Of The Royal Arcade

The figures in question are giants made of pine called Gog and Magog. They overlook the arcade's south side, flanking a clock made by Gaunt, a historic Melbourne clockmaker. Next to each of them is a bell which they strike with their arms upon the hour. They are dressed like medieval warriors but the characters they are based on predate the medieval era by hundreds of years.

- © Mark of Oz

Who Are The Royal Arcade's Gog And Magog?

Gog and Magog are creatures from Jewish, Christian and Islamic mythology. Accounts of them differ depending on what you read but they are commonly associated with the apocalypse and are universally agreed to be evil.

Jewish mythology portrays them as enemies of God, to be defeated to bring forth the messiah's golden age.

Christianity on the otherhand views them not as individuals but as nations. The peoples of Gog and Magog are a world-ending threat in league with satan. Across the course of history they have been associated with various real-life civilizations including the Vikings, the Huns, the Khazars and the Mongols.

Finally, the Quran has it that they are humanoid creatures just beyond the Earthly realm. According to Islamic legend, an ancient wall was put up to keep them at bay. Everyday Gog and Magog chip away at this wall almost breaking through only to stop to rest for the night.

'We will finish tomorrow,' they say, before turning in.

Overnight however whilst they are sleeping god restores the wall to its full strength and when they awake they have to start all over again from scratch. This continues day in day out until one day they use a slightly different goodnight sentence.

'We will finish tomorrow god willing,' they say. God leaves the wall as it is and the next day they breakthrough to overrun humanity.

- © Rex Harris

Visiting The Royal Arcade

The arcade is open Sun-Thurs: 9am-7pm, Fri: 7am-9pm and Sat: 8am-7pm. When visiting be sure to check out its other famous statue- at the opposite end of the arcade to Gog and Magog- the figure of Chronos, Father of Time, as well as the arcade's great selection of shops and eateries.

- © Rex Harris

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Melbourne Scavenger Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Melbourne and beyond!

Or, for similar places further afield, check out our articles on London's Burlington Arcade and Paris' Galerie Vivienne.


What you need to know

Royal Arcade
335 Bourke St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Tips before you visit

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