• October 10, 2014
  • 246

The Black Angel saved! (Video)

The Black Angel, one of the most beautiful monuments at the Rasos cemetery in Vilnius – just like 100 years ago – protects the old necropolis from above. Thanks to the actions taken by the Social Committee for Maintenance of the old Rasos cemetery, the money granted by Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland and the works of the conservators from Poland, the monument has been restored. The specialists guarantee that it will be in good condition for the next 150 years.

The Black Angel is a work of an eminent sculptor from Warsaw Leopold Wasilkowski. It is put up on a grave of 24-year-old girl Iza Salmonowiczówna who died in 1901.

Iza Salmonowiczówna came from a rich and noble family. The cause of her death was a heart defect. The broken-hearted family decided to order in Warsaw an impressive headstone. The sculpture presents a slightly floating in the air angel breaking the chains binding it to the earth. In XX century it was the most expensive monument at the Rasos cemetery. It was brought from Warsaw, from one of the best stonecutter studios at that time. Nowadays the Black Angel is a symbol of the cemetery. It is one of the few works of  Leopold Wasilkowski which survived.

Information concerning the death of Iza Salmonowiczówna has been lately discovered.  Alicja Klimaszewska, the Social Committee for Maintenance of the old Rasos cemetery’s chairperson admitted that with the help of the employees of the Lithuanian Historical Archives she was able to find the young girl’s death certificate. The information received deny the old legend that the girl’s death was a tragic result of her plays with a young bear.

In 1992 the Black Angel was registered in the Register of the Protected Antiquities. Yet, it perished and it was in danger to be removed from the bank it was on. Efforts to gain permission for the restoration works were made for several months. Social Committee for Maintenance of the old Rasos cemetery had to overcome many bureaucratic hindrances before the team consisting of 11 renovators started their work. The restoration works were financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and cost about 130 thousand zloties.

When talking to Wilnoteka, Zenon Sadecki, one of the conservators of the sculpture, emphasized that the monument was well-made and that is why it survived over 100 years in a comparably good condition. “We expected worse situation when it comes to the main root on which the sculpture is anchored. However, it was in quite good condition with slight signs of corrosion. We accomplished all of the building-construction works, the cavities in the stone have been filled. The monument will survive at least 150 years in this condition,” assured Z. Sadecki

The monument has been renovated and it looks impressive now. People present at the ceremony organized to celebrate the end of the renovatory-conservatory works noticed that a metal fencing would be a good idea. It was never there but it would be most desirable in this situation. Alicja Klimaszewska admitted that she believes that there will be some fundators to suport this idea.

Audronė Vyšniauskienė  from The Department of Cultural Heritage of Lithuania believes that the Black Angel renovated by the Polish specialists is an example of how monuments should be renovated.

The return of the Black Angel is a happy event but the whole Rasos cemetery should be renovated. The self-government of Vilnius is preparing a project concerning the renovation of the whole necropolis. The self-government plans to apply for funds in European Union institutions. Unfortunately, they plan to apply for them only in 2016. Alicja Klimaszewska informed that on 1st and 2nd November members of the committee will be collecting money at Powązki Cemetery to renovate Rasos. On 6th November they will also go to Choroszcze close to Białystok where they will be collecting money to save other monuments.

The members of the Social Committee for Maintenance of the old Rasos cemetery encourage on the people of Vilnius to help in cleaning the cemetery and collecting the lights. The action of cleaning Rasos (and other semeteries of Vilnius) starts on 15th October. In the Polish House in Vilnius and in the Elephas bookshop there will be points for passing lights. The action of collecting lights is organized in all Polish schools in Vilnius and Vilnius region. Like every year, this year there will be also an action of putting and lightning the lights on the graves and it will last till 3 p.m.

A video from renovating Iza Salmonowiczówna’s monument, the, so called, Black Angel at Rasos, is to be found below.

On the basis of: Inf.wł.

Pictures: Jan Wierbiel

Editing: Paweł Dąbrowski

Translated by Gabriela Godek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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