- Author Teodor Rygier
- Date of production 1898
- Place of creation Kraków, Poland
- Dimensions height: 40 cm, width: 27 cm
- ID no. MHK 3106/III/1-3
- Branch Oscar Schindler's Factory
- Object copyright Historical Museum of the City of Kraków
- Digital images copyright public domain
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Małopolska's Virtual Museums project
Three inconspicuously-looking fragments of the bronze sculpture: the head of an old man and the fragment of a hand and an arm are the elements of one of the most important 19th century monuments in Kraków — the monument commemorating the national bard, Adam Mickiewicz. The monument, erected in 1898 by the sculptor Teodor Rygier, was demolished by the German occupant in 1940 as a symbol of Polish statehood.more
Three inconspicuously-looking fragments of the bronze sculpture: the head of an old man and the fragment of a hand and an arm are the elements of one of the most important 19th century monuments in Kraków — the monument commemorating the national bard, Adam Mickiewicz. The monument, erected in 1898 by the sculptor Teodor Rygier, was demolished by the German occupant in 1940 as a symbol of Polish statehood.
What largely contributed to the creation of the monument honouring the Romanticism poet were the preparations for the grand Kraków celebration of the re-burial of Adam Mickiewicz in the Wawel, lasting from the 1860s. Nonetheless, the origins of its history date back to 1869 when during the banquet organised in Lviv on the occasion of the lectures delivered by Karol Libelt, the historian Henryk Schmidt came up with the proposal of erecting the monument commemorating the three national bards: Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasiński. The then established monument committee began to raise funds all over the country. Unfortunately, the monument initiative did not meet a wide response and only three works were sent for the competition — the ones by Antoni Kurzawa and Wiktor Brodzki. Due to the difficult political situation and the lack of sufficient funds, the concept was not realised. The idea, however, was not completely abandoned. The students concentrated around the Krakow Czytelnia Akademicka [Academic Reading-Room] decided to erect the monument of Adam Mickiewicz in Kraków. Taking advantage of the celebrations of the jubilee of Józef Ignacy Kraszewski in 1879, they organised a ball in the Cloth Hall [Sukiennice] in honour of the writer, the proceeds of which were allocated to the foundation of the monument commemorating Mickiewicz. The idea met with great interest in Kraków and resulted in the establishment of the social monument committee headed by the sculptor Paweł Popiel. In 1881 the first public “preparatory” competition was announced; however, the committee did not grant the right for the realisation of the winning project. From among many drawings and sculpture designs, the jury chose the work by Tomasz Dykas, a decision which sparked numerous controversies.
Also, the painting concept by Jan Mateko was met with high acclaim. Two years later another competition called the “definitive” one was announced. And again, the committee selected the project by Dykas and, simultaneously, asked Matejko to make the plaster model on the basis of the drawing design which the artist had sent for the competition. Unfortunately, the majority of the models presented during the competition were met with strong criticism and no project was selected to be realised. At the “final” competition in 1888, the jury selected the project by Cyprian Godebski and Albert Bitner. However, to the surprise of the public, the committee eventually chose the second awarded work by the academic sculptor Teodor Rygier, who lived and worked in Rome. The design in the form of a conventional 19th-century monument was composed of the full-figure statue of the bard in his youth placed on the architectural plinth. The plinth was surrounded by four allegorical groups of figures representing the Homeland, Science, Poetry and Bravery. It was also decorated with the inscription: “To Adam Mickiewicz, the Nation.”
Although the competition was over, a stormy discussion concerning the form of the monument continued. Therefore, upon the request of the committee, the artist introduced numerous corrections to his design, e.g. changing the figure of the young poet into the statue of a mature bard wearing a laurel wreath on his head. Rygier commissioned the casts of the figures decorating the plinth to the Nellich foundry in Rome. Another controversy was connected with the location of the monument. Hence, in 1889, after signing the contract with the author of the winning design, the committee executed a wooden model in a natural scale, which subsequently toured “different nooks and crossroads” of Kraków in search for the perfect location, “to the delight of large masses of people”, as the magazine Architekt [Architect] commented. Before the monument was eventually placed in the Main Market Square, the committee returned several times to the concept of locating the structure in Adam Mickiewicz Square in front of the newly built Collegium Novum, or in the square at the Planty garden ring at the end of Sławkowska Street. The works on the monument lasted many years. As early as 1892 the granite pedestal was placed in the Main Market Square. The timbered structure sparked protests from residents for many years. Eventually, the unveiling of the monument was held on the 100th anniversary of the bard’s birthday on 26 June 1898 in the presence of his daughter and son and important personages of Kraków. By erecting the monument, the residents of Kraków commemorated the Romanticism poet, the eulogist of Polish statehood and the concept of the 19th-century patriotism. Nonetheless, the monument designed by Rygier still sparked controversies and numerous highly critical opinions appeared in the press. Despite all this, over the years the work integrated into the city scenery, becoming one of the most important Kraków monuments.
Between 17 and 21 August 1940, the Germans who occupied the city conducted the action of demolishing the monument, which was the symbol of Polish statehood. The figures were thrown down, only to crash on the Main Market Square flagstone; the plinth was blown up. Initially, it was thought that the destroyed monument had been melted down; however, in 1946 almost all of its fragments were found in a scrap yard in Hamburg, thanks to which the monument was reconstructed by sculptor Stanisław Popławski and ceremoniously unveiled on 26 November 1995 on the 100th anniversary of the bard’s death.
Since 1958 the three preserved fragments of the original monument have been kept in the collection at the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków. These include the head of the old man from the allegorical group, “Science”; the hand with a broken chisel used to write, being a fragment of the figure “Homeland” as well as an element of the arm belonging to an unidentified figure. The museum collection also stores numerous photographs depicting the action of demolishing the monument in 1940.
Elaborated by Elżbieta Lang (Historical Museum of the City of Kraków), © all rights reserved