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St. Mary and St. Nepomuk Monument

nepomuk-smallNames:

The monument has two names – both used: “St. Mary monument” and “St. Nepomuk monument".   Both are (and were) correct, but could cause confusion: there was another “Mary”, quite famous, and it is in the namesake square from Iosefin, and there is also another Nepomuk near the Millennium Church in Fabric.

Emergence, evolution:

The nowadays statue was replacing in 1756 the older and more modest statue representing St. Nepomuk, patron saint of Catholics in Banat. As the first statue was carved in low resistance sandstone, it was replaced with the valuable statue delighting us today. The old Nepomuk was over time moved in different places around the city, finally working its way in the Catholic parochial church yard in Fabric district.

 

maria-nepomuk-smallThe plague of 1738-1739 cost the lives of around 1,000 of the 6,000 inhabitants of Timişoara. Ever since 1739, the city administration represented by Mayor Solderer filed a solemn oath to do various good deeds, as a sign of gratitude for the cessation of the epidemic. Also the “Nepomuk brothers”, a religious association in the city, wanted to commission an artwork to commemorate the epidemic. It seems that the Nepomuk brothers issued the execution command of the monument.

The artist chosen was Raphael Donner, but he could not perform the work himself. The sculptors Wasserburger and Blim executed the work, and it took them three years to finish the monument (1753-1756).

Scenes from the life of Saint Nepomuk are represented on the Baroque pedestal – the scene of his death can even be seen on its façade: he was thrown into the Vltava River in Prague. On the pedestal corners stand the statues of the Saints Sebastian, Rochus and Karl Borromeus (the same as in the Holy Trinity monument in Unirii Square). On the column, below St. Mary, St. John of Nepomuk flanked by angels is represented. St. Mary is wearing a crown and is holding in her hand a lily, a symbol of purity.

But this monument also did not always stand here. After the defeat of the 1848-1849 revolution (Timişoara’s city garrison had an important role in the victory of the Imperial Army), the square’s aspect was also affected – in fact, it was ordinary for the appearance of important squares to be modified according to the political “orientation” (Ceauşescu took these trends to the extreme). Thus, precisely in this square – that is, exactly where the revolution in Timişoara took place – a monument “of fidelity” (officially, the “Victoria” – Victory monument) was unveiled in the presence of the young Emperor Franz Joseph. On the pedestal the inscription “[dedicated to...] the faithful defenders of the city of Timişoara” was inscribed.

Therefore, the Mary-Nepomuk monument had to be moved. Although the “Victoria” monument became slightly embarrassing from a political point of view after the compromise (Ausgleich) arisen between Austria and Hungary in 1867, in was only removed in the interwar period (moved to the cemetery on Lipovei St.), and the Mary-Nepomuk monument could only return to its original place in Libertăţii Square in the late 1960s.

The St. Mary monument was seriously damaged during the December 1989 Revolution. Images from that time show the statuary ensemble chipped by bullets; it was restored between 1992 and 1993.

On December 17, 1989, Libertăţii Square and the surrounding streets were the theater of civil confrontations – real street fights between the army and protesters; the fighting was characterized by successive advances and withdrawals from both sides. Also there were casualties, dead and wounded. A plaque commemorating one of the victims is mounted on the wall of the Timişoara garrison command – this woman and her husband were shot at without warning.

Testimonies record a tank which was revolving in Libertăţii Square on the grass plot around the statue trying to run-over the protesters. In these tense moments, a young man clenched the tank’s barrel, in the revolutionaries’ cheerings. It took the tank several sudden maneuvers around the square to be able to shake the hanging protester.

The monument was rehabilitated in 2016.

 

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