Dorin Ştef Maramures – a cultural brand name contents

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Strongholds and Castles

Despising private property (both material and intellectual), the exponents of the communist regime destroyed buildings and churches and purged literary works for the simple reason that they had belonged to the “remnants of the bourgeois-landlord regime”. In other cases they minimised the value of patrimonial buildings, giving them unsuited destinations (“in the service of the proletariat”). Thus, the former Episcopal Palace from Baia Mare (No.61, Lucaciu Street), dating from 1891-1892, was turned into a knitwear factory. The Pocol House (1903) from Valea Borcutului became an orphanage, in the same way as the Blomberg Castle (19th century) from Gârdani.

The Chioar Stronghold. Political and military centre of Chioar, “Cetatea de Piatră” (the Stone Stronghold) was raised in the 13th century (but mentioned only in 1319), on an isolated hill at a bend of the river Lăpuş: the stronghold is situated at 400m altitude, on the saddle of a hill surrounded by the waters of the Lăpuş which make at the hill foot a strait among the rocks. In 1378, the stronghold was donated to the voievodes Balc and Drag, and to their brother Ioan, the descendants of voievode Dragoş from Maramures, who kept it until the last representative of the family died (1555). Between 1599 and 1600, the stronghold and the domain were handed over to Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave) who unified the Romanian principalities. This is when Chioar became a district – part of a “comitat” (county) with certain autonomy. After 1662, Mihai Teleki was nominated captain of the Stronghold Chioar; later on his family extended its influence over the whole region. By the end of the century, Rákoczi’s revolt spreads over Transylvania and the inhabitants of Chioar take the opportunity to rise against Teleki. After the Satu Mare Peace (1711), the Austrian nobiliary authorities decided the demolishment of the Chioar Stronghold in order to prevent the anti-Habsburg forces from re-grouping, and it was blown up in 1718.

The Teleki Castle from Pribileşti. The locality Pribileşti, Satulung village, had belonged to the domains of the stronghold Chioar, and it was one of captain Mihai Teleki’s properties. The castle and the summer residence were built by Geza Teleki. In 1897, the building got an upper store and was modernised. After World War II, the Teleki family emigrated and the castle was nationalised and used as a movie theatre, then as a crop store and as the seat of the collective farm. At the moment it is an advanced stage of degradation.

The Teleki Castle from Coltău. Built between the years 1740-1780, the castle was renovated in 1821. In 1845, the administration of the estate was taken over by Sandor Teleki, who was a close friend of the poet Sándor Petöfi. The latter had thought it as a welcome idea to spend his honeymoon at Coltău, together with his young wife, Julia Szendrey. The last owner of the castle, count Ioan Teleki, left for good the village of his birth in 1937, and donated the old castle to the village Coltău. Later on, it was used as a store of the collective farm, as a cultural centre, and aid post, and since 1989, it houses the elementary school, the kindergarten and the communal library. The Teleki museum was opened on the first floor of the building in 1960.

The Blomberg Castle from Gârdani. In 1780, count Blomberg received as a donation from the emperor of the Habsburg Empire, Joseph III, the domain Gârdani, 500 hectares of land and 1,000 hectares of forest. The construction of the Blomberg castle began in the same year and it was finished in 1821. Around this property, the peasants of Gârdani founded a new settlement. The Blomberg family left the country after 1945, and the castle was transformed into a school. Since 1957 to 1963, during summer, it hosted national summer camps for pupils. In 1963, the special school for children with mental disabilities was transferred to the former castle of baron Blomberg from Gârdani. Four decades later, when “the children’s houses” (the invention of the communist regime) were closed, the castle has regained its former silence and sobriety.

The Monument of the Moisei Heroes

The Moisei Monument, placed on a hill on the edge of the village, with its stone columns bearing only scratches, open to the sky, with no vault, at first sight seems to be a Dacian Temple in which invisible priests officiate over and over again the rite of an ancient solar cult. But, in reality, this is the work of artist Geza Vida (1966) and represents a moment of recent history, a reminder of the dramatic events that happened at Moisei in the autumn of 1944.

This is what the artist himself confessed: “In conceiving this monument in the form of an arc I started from the sun cults. The statues symbolizing the twelve months of the year are set is a circle with twelve radiuses; and I had made them thus in order that the inhabitants of Maramures who are passing by should remember what happened here at Moisei, in every month of the year and in each day of the months.”

On the 14th of October 1944, at Moisei, the horthyst army produced a mass murder. Thirty one peasants were gathered in two houses and massacred. Then the village was set on fire.

Geza Vida: “I wanted it to be representative for Maramures. The material is wood. Carved wood... The wood from which the peasants of Maramures have made masterpieces... The models have been the masks. The old masks from Maramures... fully expressive... They convey the essential expression.”

The twelve pillars do not impress only by the place where they are set, but also through the significance of each piece: “There, on the pillars, are the Man of Wood, the Man of the Night, the Man of the Waters, the Singing Man...” (G. Vida).

Writer Geo Bogza, the one who had suggested the sculptor the idea of monumentality, compared this work with the Târgu-Jiu complex made by Brâncuşi, and the author was “inspired by the Dacian sanctuary from Grădiştea”.

Simion Pop (1972): “They are like fatuous laic tables of laws, and one has the feeling that the ten voices of the law could be heard from the pyre-pillars, psalms sung by ancient male voices about the reasons of our opposition in front of those who pass our borders with the intention to conquer.”

Then, due to the humid climate from the region, the wood began to crack and to rot. The artist rebuilt the monument.

Very few of those who pass through Moisei know about the artist’s testimonies and of the primary significance of the monument. But the monument expresses a wider spectrum of symbols out of which the visitors can choose whatever interpretation suits their tradition and the culture they belong to.

The “Bogdan Vodă” Statue Assembly

The monument is in Cuhea (now Bogdan Vodă), on the Iza Valley, at 42 km from Sighteu Marmaţiei. It is made of bronze and represents voievode Bogdan on horseback surrounded by five of his noblemen, and bears the signature of artist Ioan Marchiş.

In the village Cuhea, at number 413, in a wooden house dated 1780 (registered as a patrimo­nial monument by the Ministry of Culture), lives Vasile Deac, nicknamed “Moşu”. He had been the mayor of the village for 31 years. Among other achievements, he decided to leave for generations to come an impressive monument representing the illustrious ancestor, voievode and founder of the country, Bogdan from Cuhea.

After lengthy discussions, in 1979, the then en vogue sculptor Geza Vida made a project of poplar wood, representing the voievode sitting on a throne. But Vasile Deac Moşu realized that he actually had wanted an equestrian statue. Five years later, he met sculptor Ioan Marchis who had just inaugurated his first monumental work (Solar Gate) in Baia Mare. But Deac hesitated to entrust him with the work, considering that the artist was “too young” for this.

In 1985, the perseverant mayor, dressed in his traditional costume, went up to the capital city to ask money from the communist authorities for commissioning the statue. His project was refused, but the man from Maramures did not return empty handed but with the money for the making of the plaster statue of a... dinosaur that was later “to be donated to a museum”. They built the “skeleton”, the plaster was cast, but the Revolution came in 1989.

Some years later, Moşu resumed his negotiations with Ioan Marchiş who in the meantime had become one of the most renowned sculptors from region. The projects, the official approvals, the clay model, and then the casting in bronze of the monument took some years. In the autumn of 2005, the monument was finally inaugurated.

The assembly of statues from Cuhea – Maramureş (Bogdan Vodă, Voievode of Maramureş and the first Prince of Moldova) has become what the inhabitants of Maramures had been expecting for years: a monument that embodies in bronze not only the history of their place but also the legends, myths, and the spirit of the people from the north of the country.

Ioan Marchiş, the creator of the monument, has succeeded to offer the inhabitants of Mara­mures something that they had needed in order to remember their true identity: something like a landmark, an insignia inscribed in the book of time, something to feel at home with.

“Standing close to the base of Bogdan’s statue, it is impossible not to feel the force of the 22 bronze moulds. Nevertheless, the energy emanated by the group of statues (the voievode on horseback, surrounded by his five noblemen) does not come from the weight of the material, but from an artistic ‘artifice’ used by the sculptor in his work: the characters (five noblemen) have their fists closed, their hands sticking together have a monotonous rhythm, being like posts, and their energy is not rolling, it is potential, and you feel that they are bursting. They are like musical instruments of the land, you can feel their resonance. The static figures around Bogdan reinforce the aerial movements of the horse’s hoof. Hence comes the energy needed for the founding of a country” (Florin Pop, ethnologist).

The proportions, force lines, the expressivity of the statues, and especially the privileged position held by Bogan Vodă in the founding of the mediaeval Romania – by the foundation of Moldova and of the dynasty of kings among which the most illustrious had been Ştefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) – recommends this monument as a representative brand for Maramures.

The Elders’ Council

It is a sculpture group representing five characters. The first version had been made of wood in 1972, and it is in the collection of the Baia Mare Artistic Centre (at the Art Museum). The stone replica, dated 1973, is placed in front of the Administrative Palace in Baia Mare. It is the work of artist GezaVida.

The traditional society in Maramures is known for its preservation of archaic forms of social organization specific to the pre-mediaeval period, in which the decisive factor, the law-maker, is the gathering of noble and the men. The voievode never had absolute and exclusive powers in the village community, as it was believed that his decisions could have defended his own or a group’s interests. Thus, the power was distributed to a so-called council that operated according to the (unwritten) law of the land in the interest of the community.

From a historical perspective, it resulted that the “group of old and good men” (whom the Romans had called “homines vertes et boni”) had been the first leaders of the gentilic and tribal communities, and afterwards, of the ethnic communities similar to the village commu­nities, and that they had created beliefs, customs and traditions of ethical and juridical or magical-mythological types of behaviour (R. Vulcănescu, 1987).

According to some researchers, the social-historical organization had the form of a pyramid of superimposed layers and consisted in: the opinion of village, the young lad’s group, the industrious men’s group and that of the elders (from among whom the village chieftains were elected).

As concerns the functioning of justice, the following scenario has been supposed to have taken place: “the court had to be made up before sunrise, so that the activity could start right at sunrise with a prayer addressed to the sun and the proceedings had to end at sunset, with the pronunciation of the verdict and the prayer of gratitude addressed to the sun for everything had been done so that the judgment be passed with impartiality and justice be made according to the ancient custom.”

In Maramures, all these elements of judicial ethnology had been preserved until late, being lost in the post-feudal period only at the instalment of the capitalist type of relations. But they have remained deeply rooted in the in the conscience of the inhabitants, some reminiscences persisting up to the 20th century.

These are the symbolic elements in the “history” of the statue group “The Elder’s Council”. But the perspective is much wider if one takes into consideration the significance of these characters in relation to the statuette known as “The Hamangia Thinker”, dated 6th century B.C., or with reference to Auguste Rodin’s “Thinker” (1880).

About Geza Vida’s grave and robust “elders”, here’s an art critic’s opinion: “In the language of sculpture, everything is expressed via the objective and mute calm of forms taking us to times and spaces devoid of theory and interpretations, at whose margin there is the im­penetr­able Sphinx. Like it, Vida’s elders build a bridge between life and death. With their desolate external appearance, these angular men are still mild, at their age there is nothing left, not even their memories, only the reality of some wooden statues and the abstract frame of a victorious generation. The history of this, like the history of any generation, does not offer merry images, especially when the movement of the society has happened through its deeds. The Elders’ Council takes its force from the power of its art” (R. Şorban, 1981).

Autor: Dorin Stef

Traducere: prof. Ana Olos


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