THE THINGS OF WARSAW – biography of things, biography of the city

THE THINGS OF WARSAW – biography of things, biography of the city

Jarosław Trybuś

Chief curator of THE THINGS OF WARSAW exhibition


The holdings of the Museum of Warsaw, which opened its doors in 1936, currently comprise over 300,000 objects related to the history of Warsaw – everyday things and ceremonial items, works of art and objects of convenience, mementos of people and of events. Our team of curators has spent 4 years selecting and show-casing 7,352 of them. We have assorted them into 21 themed rooms.

The museum objects are witnesses and participants in the history of the city.  We have striven to create conditions for a close encounter with them. They often provide a pretext for telling the stories of their owners and makers, or relating ground-breaking events and long-term developments. Apart from things, the exhibition features a separate section providing data that allows one to put the city’s complex history in prespective.

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We do not tell a single story. We do not develop a single narrative. Proceeding through the Museum’s eleven Old Town houses at one’s own pace and following one’s own path, visitors can be inspired by the objects on display to create their own story of Warsaw.

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THE THINGS OF WARSAW exhibition was created in years 2013–2017 under supervision of dr Jarosław Trybuś, Deputy Content Director of the Museum of Warsaw. Eight different thematic rooms were opened to visitors in May 2017, i.a. The Room of Archaeology and The Room of Warsaw Monuments. The remaining rooms will be opened by the beginning of summer 2018.

While touring THE THINGS OF WARSAW exhibition, located in eleven Warsaw’s Old Town houses, I really felt like the starter guide says: strolling the streets of an unknown city. The combined old town houses create together an unusual labyrinth of rooms and corridors. Climbing up the old staircase try to not get lost and don’t forget to look up at the ceilings where the beautiful historic cassettes are.

While twisting in the streets of an unknown city, partially planned, partially spontaneous, you can feel its climate, experience a bit of its daily life and get to know some piece of art and architecture you pass by. Touring the THE THINGS OF WARSAW exhibition is a very similar experience, indeed. I recommend it to everyone who likes individual tours and discovering the unknown on their own.

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The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Burren is a limestone plateau in north County Clare, Ireland, dominated by karst landscape. It measures at least 250 square kilometers. This extraordinary region is rich in natural and cultural attractions. Traveling via the Wild Atlantic Way, along the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean, through the limestone desert interspersed with the green hills and valleys, you have the impression of traveling in time and space. In a moment you are back to the Neolithic Era, in the other you are crossing the gate to the world of fantasy full of Little People, Feries and other amazing creatures well known from the J.R.R. Tolkien works.

The name Burren comes from the Gaelic and means a rocky place. Historically, the name referred to the Barony of Burren situated in north-west County Clare. Geographically, the name has a wider meaning. The area lies between Galway Bay on the north, the Atlantic coast on the west and a line drawn through Doolin, Kilfenora, Gort and Kinvara. However, outside this area you can also find the limestone features, but not as frequently and concentrated.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

The Burren is the youngest landscape in Europe and has suffered intense glaciation. The last one occurred about 10 000 years ago. You can find here almost all typical limestone landforms, like underground rivers, swallow holes, glacial erratics, caves, clints, grykes and closed depressions. The limestone is an organic sedimentary rock laid down millions of years ago in a shallow warm sea, it is the result of marine plants and animals dying and accumulating in horizontal beds on the sea floor.

The first people to arrive in the Burren were hunters and fishermen who moved into animal husbandry with the keeping of cattle, sheep and goats. From the results of research and archaeological excavations a lot of information has been gathered about the life and death of these early settlers. There are numerous monuments and tombs dated to the Neolithic Era from, ca. 4000 – 3000 BC. The tombs of the first farmers, widely known as megaliths, are impressive monuments over the graves of their dead.

Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott
Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott

The Burren is also well known for the remains of over twenty churches constructed between the 6th and 12th centuries. These are evidences of the spread of Christianity in this region and traces of stay of the early Irish missionaries, like St. Colman and St. Cronan, who laboured in this remote area. Most of these churches are of architectural interest and in most cases their patrons and founders being known and revered.

The Corcomroe Abbey is one of these remains, sited among the grey hills and valleys of the Burren. It is best known for its lonely situation. The abbey acquired the name of Sancta Maria de Petra Fertili (St. Mary of the Fertile Rock) which reflects the fertile nature of the Burren lands. It has been built in the 12th century and used by the Cistercian community for the next 400 years.

The Corcomroe Abbey

In a countryside like the County Clare, isolated from the rest of the country by the river Shannon, with so many visible remains of the past and an extraordinary landscape that stimulates imagination, the folklore was rich and survived over the centuries maintained by the Gaelic language. It has left many material and immaterial traces in the landscape and in the literature.

Recently it turned out that the magical landscape of the Burren may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to bring to life the Middle-earth – the central continent of the Earth in Tolkien’s imagined mythological past. The term is equivalent to the term Miðgarðr from Norse mythology, describing the human-inhabited world. In ancient Germanic mythology, the world of Men is known by several names, such as Midgard, Middenheim, Manaheim, and Middengeard. The Old English word middangeard descends from an earlier Germanic word, transliterated to modern English as Midgard.

Doolin Fertile Stone
Doolin Fertile Stone

Tolkien’s world famous works, like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, take place entirely in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien worked as an external examiner to National University Galway in the 40s and 50s of the XX century. Galway, the most central port on the West Coast in the sheltered eastern corner of Galway Bay, located between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south, was a great starting point for exploring the surrounding area.

It is said by the locals that Tolkien would often take trips to the lunar-like landscape of the Burren. When you consider that Tolkien was visiting the Burren around the same time that he was writing The Lord of The Rings, it is easy to see how the stark beauty of this region might have inspired him. The landscape here is certainly unusual, and for a fantasy author such as Tolkien it must have been magnetic.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

Amongst the craggy fissures and creeping woods of the Burren there is a cave called Pol na Gollum (Hole of Gollum). The Gollum’s character is essential to the entire plot of The Lord of The Rings. Did Tolkien get the name for this miserable creature from this cave? Furthermore, Gollum in The Lord of The Rings had a distinctive gurgling cough, and at the mouth of this cave the chirps and calls of rock doves echo and transform into a similar guttural sound.

Thanks to Peter Curtin, the owner of The Roadside Tavern pub in County Clare and a member of The Burren Society Tolkien Symposium, it has been accepted that one of the most iconic authors of the fantasy literature – J.R.R. Tolkien, was influenced by the magic of the incredible place of the Burren while writing his most famous work.

Pauline Baynes's copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings
Pauline Baynes’s copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings

Gallery

Reference:

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/places/the_burren/burren_karst.htm

http://www.ireland.com/en-gb/what-is-available/attractions-built-heritage/historic-ireland/articles/burren-and-tolkien/

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/the-little-people

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/fairy-and-folk-tales

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-earth#Etymology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galway_Bay

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3287440/Show-way-Mordor-Unique-hand-drawn-map-Middle-Earth-gives-rare-insight-Tolkien-s-mind.html

https://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_colbeck_1905.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/australia-books-blog/2016/sep/26/hannah-kent-the-good-people-dives-into-an-irish-world-of-faith-and-fantasy

Three medieval worlds and the social memory of cultural heritage sites.

Three medieval worlds and the social memory of cultural heritage sites.

Grzegorz Kiarszys


The presented book “Three medieval worlds. Iuxta castrum Sandouel” aims to tell the stories of the remains of medieval strongholds in the cultural landscape of the Góra district (Lower Silesia Region, Poland) and to restore their presence in the social discourse. The research project was financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, coordinated by the National Heritage Board of Poland, with the aid from Archeo Landscapes Europe. The studies focus on the relics of early medieval strongholds and late medieval motte castles located in the Lower Silesia Region, Poland. These features are often considered as mysterious objects of anthropogenic origin. However, their original purpose and cultural value is seldom recognized by the local community.

Relatively low historical awareness in the western Poland results from the historical context of those territories. After the end of World War II, due to decisions made at the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, the eastern part of the Third Reich was put under Polish administration. The local German population was replaced by Polish settlers from the eastern and central territories. Post-war reality in western Poland caused the meaning of archaeological and historical monuments to be devalued. Polish citizens, resettled to the western territories, perceived the landscape as “alien” or “German”. After the horror of war they were unable to recognize the heritage sites or imagine their abstractive value and identify with it. In their eyes the landscape of “Regained Territories” didn’t have any past or tradition worth to acknowledging and commemorating. Historical and archaeological monuments were not seen as their property.

On the other hand, the communistic ideology was about creating the new social order; it exploited the past for political reasons, developing interest only in specific archaeological sites, for example those related to the early Polish Piast monarchy. Such archaeological sites could later be used in the discourse of propaganda and to justify border shifts after World War II. Along with the disappearance of archaeological earthworks from the Polish topographical maps, they also vanished from the awareness of the local population, losing their cultural value. The consequence of that process had a great impact on the contemporary perception of cultural heritage in western Poland.

Archaeological sites can be valued due to their physical form and state of preservation, as well as their chronology or relationship with historic events that are considered to be important. As soon as such a place is identified and significant, it starts to play a part in contemporary social discourse, receiving a new cultural context. This can be created in relation to different roles such as education, or become an active part of the construction of social identity.

The non-invasive archaeological methods can be useful for popularizing of archaeology and widening the awareness of historical places in local societies. Application of such methods as: aerial photography (both archival and contemporary), Airborne Laser Scanning, magnetometry and historical cartography can be valuable, not only for professional archaeological landscape studies, but also in the process of construction of a narrative about the biography of specific archaeological features.

Archaeology can produce a persuasive and aesthetic background for the contemporary social discourse. Restoring the memory of archaeological heritage sites in the region, with the aid of a properly constructed narrative and visualisation of specific monuments, can revive the imagination of local society and fill in the empty places with stories being told once again.

 

Cemitério dos Prazeres and Memory of the Dead

Cemitério dos Prazeres and Memory of the Dead

Cemeteries are one of the most impressive reflexes of an historic moment in a certain culture. Therefore, it is rather understandable why southern Europe cemeteries present features that cannot be easily found in Great Britain cemeteries, for example. However, if we look closer to Portuguese cemeteries, we can easily distinguish it from the Spanish, the French or even from the Italian ones.

Francisco Queiroz

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The rainy and gloomy November especially encourages to do some reflection and meditation on the transience, the death and the fragility of human life. This is the best time for remembering the dead and visiting cemeteries. The Western world celebrates in this particular time of the year the Halloween, the All Saints’ Day, the All Souls’ Day from 31st October to 2nd November. At that time cemeteries are illuminated by thousands of candles and sunk in flowers, like in Poland. However, during the rest part of the year the final resting places are usually empty.

In the last week of October this year I visited the famous Prazeres Cemetery in Lisbon, just before the upcoming holidays. Portuguese transport has switched already to the winter timetable, but the temperature was still high (ca. 27-29 degrees Celsius) and the sun was shining beautifully. So there was not a bit of the so called “November atmosphere” which I described above. It was completely different, in fact. The Prazeres Cemetery was almost empty. I saw only a few tourists and I met two old ladies, who were taking care of the graves of their dead spouses. We had some conversation  and frankly they complained a bit that since the cemetery has become a monument the cost of upkeeping the graves increased significantly.
I walked around the cemetery around 1.5 hours and I really felt myself like visiting a ghost town, a city of the dead. The plan of the streets, squares, monuments, mausoleums, chapels and avenues with the houses of the dead corresponds 1:1 to the normal city plan, a living city. Nevertheless, the net curtains in the tombs’ windows looked a little spooky and caused me a bit of an unpleasant shudder. And the coffins visible directly through the glass… This is not a daily view, even at a cemetery. Modernly, we are more accustomed to burying the coffin with the body in the ground or to a discrete cremation rather then exposure of coffins with corpses. A certain order of things had been infringed and that was probably the reason why I felt a bit strange and slightly uncomfortable.
Beyond the beautiful nineteenth century romantic architecture and the scenic location, the Prazeres Cemetery is also well known from the oldest and largest concentration of the cypresses on the Iberian Peninsula. These long-lived trees bring incredible peace and dignity by their presence and are the characteristic elements of this landscape. And the cats are the only living inhabitants of the Prazeres Cemetery, I suppose. They behaved very calmly and very freely, so you could conjecture that the cemetery is probably their living environment, their home. It is significant that the more we move to the south of Europe, the greater dominance of the cats in the cities we observe. Sometimes they took such a pose that they looked like a guardians, absolutely focused and concentrated. Just like the mythical Cerberus,  guarding the entrance to the underworld…
* * *
The Prazeres Cemetery was originally created to handle the thousands of victims of the cholera epidemic in 1833-34.  By 1839, wealthier families began to build monuments.  Several hundred tombs were build between 1839 and1850 alone.  Many important names figures of Portuguese arts and politics are buried here.  The Prazeres Cemetery became the model for most cemeteries in the center and south of Portugal, and is the most cosmopolitan cemetery still existing in the nation.

Before the grounds were converted into a cemetery, it was a collective of farms by the name of Quinta dos Prazeres in which you could find gardens, vineyards and orchards. It’s location, with a beutiful view of the Tejo river, was noble indeed, positioned near Dom Pedro II’s Royal Palace in Alcântara and the other royal parties.

In the XVI century the farm was converted into a refuge for people suffering diseases like smallpox, the plague and yellow fever. Eventually, thanks to the the cholera morbus epidemic in the 1830s, the whole area was designated as a final resting place for the local aristocracy. It was run by the nuns from the Convento de Boa Morte (Good Death Convent) until 1834.

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References:

http://portugalconfidential.com/10-intriguing-cemeteries-of-portugal/

http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/en/equipments/equipment/info/cemiterio-dos-prazeres

http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/equipamentos/equipamento/info/museu-cemiterio-dos-prazeres

http://www.ucityguides.com/cities/10-famous-cemeteries.html

http://www.atlaslisboa.com/cemiterio-dos-prazeres/

http://queirozportela.com/cemetpo.htm

Tannenberg-Denkmal and the cult of memory

Tannenberg-Denkmal and the cult of memory

History, is devoted to its memory. It is built from collected fragments of information, the detritus of knowledge about the past, and the relics of memories lost.

Memory, in this case it is not a record of experienced recollections but an attempt at an orderly re-assembling of lost memory. It is memory arranged in the form of an archive.

Oblivion, is tantamount to the erasure of the memory of the monument. Devastation experienced years ago, pillage and the dispersion of its unwanted (alien) remains provokes a set of basic questions:

Should one speak about the Tannenberg-Denkmal now?
How should one speak about it?

Dorota Nieznalska, Tanneberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Tanneberg – Denkmal, built in 1925-1927, was once a monumental building, located between Olsztynek and Sudwa villages, in former East Prussia and present Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland. It commemorated the victory of the Prussian army over the Russian in the Battle of Tannenberg 1914. Later on it became also the mausoleum of Paul Hindenburg, a German military man, a field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) and politician – the President of the Reich during the Weimar Republic and the early Third Reich in 1925-1934.

In 1934, Hindenburg’s body was ceremoniously buried in a special crypt in the monument. Adolf Hitler, appointed by Hindenburg to be the Chancellor in 1933, participated in the funeral. In 1935, Hindenburg’s remains were transferred to the specially prepared mausoleum located in one of the Tannenberg-Denkmal towers.

In January 1945, the Germans, fearing the possibility of the profanation of his remains by the Russian army, managed to take his coffin at the last moment and transport it deep into German territory. A few days later, the mausoleum was partially destroyed by an explosion caused by retreating German troops. Currently, Hindenburg’s remains rest in St. Elisabeth’s Church in Marburg, Germany.

Some of building blocks of the Tannenberg-Denkmal were used for the construction of the stairs at the building of The Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Warsaw (1948), for the construction of The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw (1952–1955) and the Monument of the Liberation of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (1954).

* * *

Dorota Nieznalska, a Polish visual artist engaged in critical art, creating installations, sculptural objects, vide art and photographs, accomplished her project “Tannenberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!”, supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and devoted entirely to history – remembrance – oblivion issues.

Dorota Nieznalska’s works – the movie and the website, juxtapose archival documents, photos and videos of the Tannenberg-Denkmal monument with Wagner’s music and the words of Pierre Nora, a French historian and precursor of studies on “the sites of memory”. The project is an attempt to deal with the memory of the historical and cultural heritage of former East Prussia.

Kult pamięci! Tannenberg-Denkmal | Dorota Nieznalska 2014
“Kult pamięci! Tannenberg-Denkmal”, 2014

References:

http://www.tannenberg-denkmal.com/

http://muzeum.olsztynek.pl/en/about-museum/

http://ninateka.pl/film/kult-pamieci-tannenberg-denkmal-dorota-nieznalska

http://www.visit.olsztyn.eu/article/319/nieznalska-z-pasja-o-tannenberg-denkmal

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part III

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part III

 

Dąbrówka Stępniewska


Part III
The unity of place, time and action.

The movie is the third part of the “Chopin. Memory and musical landscape” series. It maintains the principle of decorum and the unity of place, time and action. The Pianist was performing Chopin music on historical piano, from the Chopin era, at the place of his birth, his early infancy and later summer stays. The concert lasted approx. 45 min and the whole video material has been recorded within that time.

The sound is playing the main role in this picture. The piano melodies are very reminiscent of the sounds of the surrounding nature. The singing birds blend in the music and the subsequent passages strikingly resemble the rustle of the trees and the babbling brook. The music is spreading around the park through the open windows and from hidden speakers. It reverberates all around and makes one stop, calm down and sink into the sounds.

The first part https://archaeologyofmemory.wordpress… focuses on people and objects, their interrelation and mutual impact, their shared being and intertwined biographies. The issues of embodiment of things and objectification of human beings emerge from the text as well as the power of human perception and emotions. The music and the artist are treated as memory medium, which enables to travel throughout time and space, within the world of music.

The second part https://archaeologyofmemory.wordpress… further explores the concepts of biography of place and biography of landscape, the issues of construction and de-construction of national monuments and national heritage sites. The case of Fryderyk Chopin birthplace in Żelazowa Wola is a great example of creating and sustaining national memory and national monuments using historical and artistic expressions.

* * *  Epilogue * * *

Photo: Chopin concert at Łazienki Royal Park, Warsaw
Chopin Recital at Łazienki Royal Park, Warsaw 2016

The Fryderyk Chopin Monument, facing one of the gates to the Łazienki Royal Park, was designed by Wacław Szymanowski in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s birth. It was not erected in the Łazienki Royal Park until 1926 with the plans cancelled by the World War I as well as by controversies surrounding the solid design itself.

During the World War II the Chopin Monument was one of the first in Warsaw to be blown up by the Nazis. Reconstructed in strict conformity to the original, it remains an essential symbol of the capital city of Poland.

For more than fifty years Chopin concerst have been held at the foot of the Chopin Monument. Emminent pianists perform here every Sunday from mid-May until late September at 12 noon and 4 p.m.

The atmosphere in the park is unique, both carefree and raised, like listening to classical concert and enjoying an open air festival at the same time! Perhaps this is the reason why these recitals are hugely popular with Warsaw residents and tourists alike.

 

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II

Dąbrówka Stępniewska


Part II
Biography of place and landscape. Memory and monuments.

The Birthplace. The composer’s mother, Justyna nee Krzyżanowska, from an impoverished gentry family, helped with the house keeping as a resident of the Skarbek’s manor house. She met Mikołaj Chopin, a French immigrant who became tutor to the Skarbek’s children at Żelazowa Wola. The Chopins married in 1806 and set up home in the right part of the annexe of the Skarbek’s estate.

Nothing is known about the furnishings of the flat where Fryderyk’s parents lived in the annexe of the Skarbek’s manor house. It could have contained furniture belonging to the Skarbeks, but the Chopins might also have possessed their own. There is no doubt, however, that the interiors were furnished modestly and in a stylistically inconsistent way. The existing books belonged to the family and certainly have been kept in a bookcase.

The Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola. Photo M. Czechowicz
The Chopin’s Room. Permanent display at the Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin and Park in Żelazowa Wola. Photo by M. Czechowicz

After moving to Warsaw in the autumn 1810, the Chopin family maintained close and warm contacts with the Skarbek family. Żelazowa Wola became a destination for  Chopins summer excursions. Only one letter addressed to Fryderyk’s friend Jan Białobłocki survived, where the composer describes his summer holiday in Poland. Fryderyk and Jan spent the summers of 1824 and 1825 in close proximity. Their visited one another on regular basis. Białobłocki died at 21, most probably of tuberculosis of the knee. Chopin wrote 13 letters to his friend, the last dated 12 March 1827.

Descriptions from the period, which are not always reliable, speak of the composer giving concerts on a piano carried out from the house and placed beneath a spurt, on which occasions his music would have been heard by all around.

The Park Monument_Żelazowa Wola
The Park – Monument in Żelazowa Wola

The Museum. The idea of creating a museum devoted to Fryderyk Chopin in the annexe of the Skarbek’s estate dates back to 1891, but it was not until the inter-war period that concepts for its display began to be realized at Żelazowa Wola. None of them was fully implemented at that time. The intention was to furnish Chopin’s birthplace partly with historical furniture, in an effort to recreate the atmosphere of the times. The plan was to fill the display devoted to Chopin with souvenirs connected with the composer and his family.

During the period when the Chopin Family was living at Żelazowa Wola, the right part of the annexe was residential, while the left part, with a cellar, served functional purposes. The display in this room presents the history of this modest manorial annexe, with its successive renovations and functions from beginning of the XVIII century, when the landed estate of Żelazowa Wola was acquired by Count Skarbek, up to the 1930s, when the neglected building was rebuilt and turned into a museum – a place devoted to the memory of Fryderyk Chopin.

Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola
Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola

Although the display was not officially opened until 1949, it is known that the Chopin’s death mask was already here in 1930 and later also two pianos, copies of portraits of the composer by Delacroix, Scheffer and the Bissons, a collection of Chopin-related drawings and probably a cast of his hand.  Few of the items from the pre-war interiors survived the World War II.

In post-war display, the furnishings were more in line with current conceptions of the interiors of a XIX century Polish manor house than the humble annexe in which Chopin was born. At that time, the left side of the annexe was not distinguished as having been non-residential, with a fictive vision of a manor house created throughout the building.

Żelazowa Wola, First Chopin's Monument 1894
The First Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola, 1894

The Monument. On 14 October 1894, the first Chopin monument on Polish lands was unveiled. Modest in form, referring to the tradition of obelisk commemoration and given such a form due to censorship restrictions. It was shaped like a gravestone, since that was the only form allowed by the Russian imperial authorities of those times. The medallion with an effigy of Fryderyk Chopin was designed by Jan Woydyga whereas the whole monument was designed by Bronisław Żochowski.

The unveiling ceremony represents a symbolic watershed in the history of the commemoration of Chopin’s birthplace. It also marked the start of lengthy efforts to set up a museum devoted to the composer. From the beginning of the XX century, many initiatives designed to popularize the birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin were undertaken, like numerous concerts, trips and exhibitions, accompanied by the collecting of donations initially towards the purchase of the annexe from private hands and then for the creation of a museum.

The Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola
The First Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola, 2016

Mily Balakirev, a Russian composer, pianist, conductor and musical activist and an enthusiast of Fryderyk Chopin’s music, secured the permission of the Russian imperial governor of Warsaw to erect a monument to the composer. Aleksander Poliński, a member of the Committee of the Warsaw Music Society, sought to buy the historical annexe from the then owner of the estate. Although the plan fell through at that time, a monument was raised in front of the annexe.

During the unveiling ceremony, works by the Polish composer were played by Aleksander Michałowski, one of the leading pianist in the transmission of the Chopin pianistic tradition, Mily Balakirev, and the pianist and journalist Jan Kleczyński. The official programme featured a performance of Zygmunt Noskowski’s polonaise-style cantata On the Banks of the Utrata/ Nad Utratą, and the Lutnia choir sang vocal transcriptions of works by Chopin.

The Park – Monument. The rebuilt annexe of the Skarbek family estate was to be the centerpiece of a modernist park-monument designed by Franciszek Krzywda-Polkowski, founder and head of the Parks and Landscape Architecture Department of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, who broke with the idea of an idyllic garden detached from the context of the surrounding Mazovian landscape. The modernist character of the design was manifest in the treatment of the park as a closed, individual work of art, characterized by the geometrisation and rhythmisation of the spatial elements such as architectural features, paths and avenues. Their composition with the flora, laid out in a free and picturesque way, indicates the character of a landscape park.

The Park Monument at Żelazowa Wola
The Park – Monument in Żelazowa Wola

The work on laying out The Park – Monument began in the early spring of 1933. In many places the lie of the land was altered mostly new flora was planted, not all of it native to Poland, and paths and avenues were marked out, including the road leading from the new gate to the Chopin’s birthplace. Terraces, steps and bridge were built, the River Utrata was regulate, water bodies were created and architectural features were raised, like bowers, rain shelters, a pergola and a summer concert stage. The 1894 monument was moved from in front of the annexe to the western part of the park, and in its place a pool was created, in which the annexe’s façade is reflected. The work was completed in December 1937.

Skarbek family estate in Żelazowa Wola
Remains of the Skarbek family estate in Żelazowa Wola

The decision not to recreate the surroundings of the annexe from Chopin’s times gave rise to numerous polemics in that times. Opponents of the modern vision argued that a garden typical of the impoverished gentry of the period ought to be created around the composer’s birthplace. That argument was countered with notions of the revolutionary and innovative character of Chopin’s music, which should be reflected in a bold design. Finally, the revolutionary vision was realized.

The latest archaeological research revealed that the annexe in which Chopin was born stood opposite the larger building referred to in documents as the Old Manor – probably the only residential building besides the annexe on the Skarbek’s estate.

* * *

Detailed information is derived from the New Display at the Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola, 2015

 

Gallery:

Żelazowa Wola Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes

Reference:

http://chopin.museum/en/museum/zelazowa_wola/id/757

http://pl.chopin.nifc.pl/chopin/persons/detail/id/6748

http://bazawiedzy.chopin2010.pl/en/people/wszystkie-osoby/entry/4043-bialoblocki-jan.html

Related article:
Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I. People and objects. Music, memory mediums and emotions.