Krzyże w guberni suwalskiej w XIX wieku: między tradycją a dyktatem władzy
Lithuanian Folk Art
Order of 1867
Order of 1876
Order of 1976
Small sacral architecture
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractAt the beginning of 19th century cross building was a deeply rooted practice in the Suwalki province. According to the surviving church documents, this tradition dates back to as far as the 18th century. The natural and sponteneous development of the tradition of cross building was interrupted in 1867, when a ban on building crosses, chapels or other religious symbols, Stations of the Crioss and processions church premises was imposed. Although panalties for disobeying the order were not heavy as in Kaunas and Vilnius provinces, the building, repair and renovation of crosses in the Suwalki province were under strict control of governement officials. Moreover the tsar‘s governement went as far as to regulate the outward apperance of the cross. No decorative elements, sophisticated forms or inscriptions were allowed. As a rule, building metal crosses made of cast iron was not permitted as the latter were said to resemble memorials. Besides, only wooden crosses were considered religious symbols by the civil government. Thus although the tsar‘s governement prevented industrial cast iron crosses from invading the landscape of Suwalki province, yet it also strongly infuenced the form, decoration and the intended purpose of wooden crosses. Numerous registered violations and penalties testify to people‘s disobedience and resistance to the civil governement in general and the control imposed on cross building in particular. Until then, the latter practice depended exclusively on the builder‘s religious feelings and the only requirement of the clergy was that the Christian iconography and Catholic norms be observed.
The 19th century was the turning point in the tradition of cross building – the religious symbolism of the cross was overshadowed by its political implications. The emergence of historical and political references occurred not only as a result of the 1863 upsising and its subsequent cruel suppression, but also due to the above mentioned restrictions imposed by the tsarist governement, which were meant to control, enfeeble and eventually destroy the tradition in the Catholic regions of the Russian Empire. In Suwalki province, as in Vilnius or Kaunas provinces, crosses were built to commemorate the ancestors and important life events or by way of pleading for intercession and protection form from various diseases and ill-fortunes. The distinctive charecteristic of this province is that it is a place where the influences and trends of the other regions come together and undergo transformation. The Caravacan cross, with inscribed abbreviations, is found in Suwalki province more often than in other regions. The plain form and moderate ornamentation of the crosses of the Suvalkija region were determined not only by the specific requirements of the tsarist authorities, but also by people‘s distinctive taste, which was formed way before it could be affected by mass-produced items.