The monument as the pillar of Serbian spirituality

The monument as the pillar of Serbian spirituality

Monument to Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović was officially unveiled on the town square „Šumadija“ in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica on Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day) 28th June 2016. The ceremony was attended by the Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Đurić, Chairman of the Interim Municipal Authority of Kosovska Mitrovica Aleksandar Spirić, Mayor of North Mitrovica Goran Rakić, Bishop of Raska and Prizren Theodosius, as well as a great number of citizens. The cultural-artistic program has been attended by Serbian Orthodox cantors (Srbski pravoslavni pojci), choir „Branislav Nušić“, prof. Dr. Valentina Pitulić who spoke Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day) sermon and actor Aleksandar Lazić who performed a monologue of Lazar from the Kosovo battle.

Monument to Prince Lazar is a donation of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and setting of the monument itself was the responsibility of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija and Interim Municipal Authority of Kosovska Mitrovica. Besides the monument to Miloš Obilić set up two years ago next to the monastery in Gračanica, which was kept for safekeeping in the ports of Gračanica monastery for more than a decade after being violently toppled by Albanians in 2002 in the center of Obilić, a monument to prince Lazar at the roundabout in northern Mitrovica is the second monument dedicated to the Serbian heroes which has been set up in Kosovo in recent years. Monument to Prince Lazar with a memorial fountain existed in Kosovo only in Gnjilane, but it was bulldozed by Albanians in 1999.

Chairman of the Interim Municipal Authority of Kosovska Mitrovica Aleksandar Spirić was preoccupied with the idea and the project of setting up a monument to Prince Lazar in Kosovska Mitrovica since November 2014. Responsibility which was reflected in the preparation of building parcel up to the feasibility study involved the gathering of the team of most skilled people who have contributed with their proposals to the realization of the idea of the monument. Aleksandar Spirić gave his answers on certain ambiguities as well as on the importance of this monument for municipal web site.

Where did the idea come from and who is the initiator of the setting up of the monument?

The idea was there since November 2014 and we were waiting for the right moment for its realization. The monument is a donation from the Government of the Republic of Serbia and this Vidovdan shows that we began to reduce the debt of the historical heritage. We have transformed the idea into the result we see today and we have participated together in its realization. Setting up of the monument to Prince Lazar was a duty to all of us who have been here for centuries, which has been waiting for us and we have fulfilled it, because of the name and space, because of us, our present as well as our future. And who else would do more and do it better than us? No one! These are our needs, the needs of the Serbian people. Let us not leave them unfulfilled.

What sort of significance will the monument to Prince Lazar have for the people in this region?

Setting up of the monument of Prince Lazar in Kosovska Mitrovica has great significance for our people in this area, as it stands as a reminder to our children and future generations that their fate depends on the unanimity, unity and joint efforts for the survival and persistence of us Serbs. This year’s Vidovdan will be remembered and marked in our history as a rectification of an injustice to Prince Lazar, and to all the Serbian greats who gave their lives for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. On the road of exquisite values, as an expression of the ascension of the people, let there be found this idea of ours, the monument to Prince Lazar in Kosovska Mitrovica on his own, and among his own. Its existence should bring us together, strengthen us and encourage us with its power. Lazar immortalized Kosovo and with his high-minded thought Lazar has always been in Kosovo. Today He appeared among us. He came.

What does the monument represent in the spiritual, artistic, religious and social sense for Kosovo and Metohija?

Our efforts in terms of improving all spheres of life within our community are reflected primarily in the renewal of spirituality and unity as the main benchmarks for the overall atmosphere. The effort to create a new urban touch that would reflect the modernization of Kosovska Mitrovica is already noticeable, and it gives a clear signal that we are turning into a place where the living standards are on the level of developed cities. We want to strengthen the people by combining modern urbanism with the cultural values and to regain the spirituality and stability this municipality once had. Kosovska Mitrovica has been the inspiration of many artists who left written and an indelible mark about it. We want to continue these steps that will inspire modern artists to extend and continue this mark, breaking our tradition from oblivion. Two theaters, a handful of writers, artists and musicians and the cultural crossroads are a paradigm that obliges us to combine art, culture, history and religion through the centuries. Only in this way can we create a city that has all the elements for life and prospects of young people and future generations. Monument to Prince Lazar represents just a symbol of the return of the Serbian people to Kosovo and Metohija, and a reminder of the way we were, whom we had, and what we need to be. This monument should be a link spirituality, culture and art, and as such will be a lofty example for younger generations. Imaginary spirit of the Prince has not accidentally chosen the place where he stands proudly, and why it is that way future times will show.

The Vidovdan of Kosovo is a test of one era and this generation has passed this test with honors. How will future generations treat the Kosovo heroes and Prince Lazar?

I am pleased that today I can safely say that we are the generation that had decided to create new, better, long-lasting and safer. Let us be proud of our glorious past. Let us express it, to be visible, let us carry it in ourselves and with us, because it makes us visible. Let us supplement it with the new content. Let us build our present. Let us raise it with the new strength of mind for the generations to come. I hope that the future generations will preserve the culture and historical memory of all Kosovo heroes andknightsfrom oblivion, but above everyone else Holy Prince Lazar. For Serbs the Battle of Kosovo has grown into a myth. For our nation it was not finished with a defeated, but is considered a major victory for the Serbian Orthodoxy and Serbian love for our faith and freedom.

In the end, what kind of message you want to send to the citizens of Kosovska Mitrovica?

I am sure that future generations will have a lot more perspective and more harmonious social life. Efforts we are making today are aimed at achieving numerous goals of improving the living standard, culture, art and a new infrastructure look of the municipality. The future of this area depends only on us. Our thinking, behavior and positive perception of modern society are crucial in achieving better living conditions. Our plans are serious and ambitious, and to achieve them we have to overcome all the problems we face.

On the bank of the river Danube near Smederevo in the artistic foundry „Kuzma“ a bronze sculpture was molded from 136 parts pieces, 7.5 meters in height, weighing in more than 6 tons. Many ideas and variations on how the sculpture of Lazar Hrebeljanović would look like overwhelmed the sculptor Miroljub Stamenković who spent his entire professional career as a professor of sculpture at the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade. Prince Lazar was presented with a cloak like every ruler and has a shield as a warrior. Plaster model which was used in the making of the sculpture was made five times smaller than the bronze statue. Lots of people worked for two months on the making of the clay monument in the actual size. The statue 7.5 meters in height was mounted on a rig with a special auto-crane and was sent from an ancient capital city of Smederevo to Kosovo. The pedestal of the statue of Prince Lazar in the center of northern Kosovska Mitrovica is two and a half meters in height. Coated with decorative stone in the old Byzantine style with 24 bronze medallions symbolizing the Serbian history. Lazar is pointing with his left hand to Gazimestan, and his right arm is resting on the sword. On the front there is an inscription with the name of the Prince and years of birth and death from 1329 to 1389.

Setting up of the monument in Kosovska Mitrovica was carried out construction by the construction company „Rad 028“ from Zvečan whose director Rade Stević. Usually when it comes to writing historical pages names of political leaders, artists, scientists and other prominent individuals are remembered. However, people who participate in the creation of great historical, political and cultural works often remain unmentioned. In the creation, setting and aesthetics of the monument to Prince Lazar worth mentioning is the name of the general contractor Rade Stević who has been working on improving urban infrastructure in Kosovska Mitrovica for some time.

„Setting up of the 7.5 meters high statue was a challenge in a technical sense for our employees, because it was difficult to synchronize all the machinery so that the monument would be erected on a pedestal. We worked hard to finish the work on time, as was the agreement even though we encountered various obstacles. It was my pleasure that my company had won the tender and took part in setting up of the monument, because we are all aware what sort of significance the statue of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović has for our city, as well as for Kosovo and Metohija. I’m glad I participated in one of the, I hope, most important events in Kosovska Mitrovica. „

Stamenković was born in Niš in 1950, completing the School of Applied Arts in 1969 in Niš. Stamenković graduated at the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade, Department of applied sculpture in 1975. From 1976 to 1991 Stamenković worked at the National Museum in Belgrade as a sculptor restorer. Since 1991 till now Stamenković has been working at the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade, as an assistant professor until 1996, and an associate professor until 2001, when he became a full professor. He has been full professor of applied sculpture for fourteen years, both at basic and master’s and doctoral studies. He is a member of ULUPDS since 1975, the International Association medalist (FIDEM, Paris) since 1976 and ULUS since 1978. Stamenković was the author of numerous solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group exhibitions, and he was the winner of numerous national and international awards.

One of the most decisive battles in Serbian history took place on Vidovdan, June 28, 1389 at Kosovo Polje. Leading Serbian army against the Turks Prince Lazar was killed in this battle. Since then, the struggle for the liberation of the country from the Turks is deeply rooted in Serbian tradition. Famous battle that took place at Kosovo Polje is one of the most important events in Serbian history. Story about this event shortly after the battle became a legend, which is proudly recounted among today’s generations. Thanks to this legend, the famous battle became and remained central event of the entire Serbian history in the national consciousness. That event has gained a deplorable, but proudly glory as the biggest Serbian defeat in which the Serbs had lost their independence, although today it must be reasonably doubted that the Serbs experienced a military defeat at all.

At the unveiling of the monument, about the importance of the Battle of Kosovo and the role of Prince Lazar, spoke prof. dr Valentina Pitulić in Vidovdan oration, distinguished professor of literature at the National University of Priština with temporary seat in Kosovska Mitrovica. This is a short excerpt from the words:

„Today, you came to us, Prince, to gather, to warn, to make us take the pledge… that the earthly … is for a small empire, but heavenly always and forever. To fortify us! Not to give up. Not to stray in times of weather storms. Not to look at the size of the monument, but the size of our reflection in you…

… Let this place be a mirror. Let’s look at ourselves and each other. Let us make a vow that our home is here. Not to give in. Not to give up. Not to seek easy solutions. Let us grasp firmly the earth and do not sell faith for supper. To build Lazar in ourselves! To see each other on Vidovdan! As always! To give our answer what is our sort, that you did not come in vain. To wait, Prince, together with us, the new liberators. To light the consecrated candles of Princess Milica, there, in Dečani. For the second time.“

Translated and adapted by: Prof. Marko Vučičević

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