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Bronze lion moves to the theatre

BIG preparations are underway to uncover the new-but-old memorial of Milan Rastislav Štefánik, one of the most important and famous individuals of modern Slovak history. A huge bronze lion, which will form part of the memorial, was transported from its previous location in front of the Slovak National Museum, where it had been since 1988, to a workshop, the Sme daily wrote.

The bronze lion being taken for a 'face-lift' before being placed in its new location near the new building of the National Theatre.(Source: TASR)

BIG preparations are underway to uncover the new-but-old memorial of Milan Rastislav Štefánik, one of the most important and famous individuals of modern Slovak history. A huge bronze lion, which will form part of the memorial, was transported from its previous location in front of the Slovak National Museum, where it had been since 1988, to a workshop, the Sme daily wrote.

“It will go for a facelift where it will be cleaned and conserved with wax,” Pavol Šesták of the Milan Rastislav Štefánik Foundation told Sme. The foundation was behind the plan to turn the old memorial into a new one and for recreating its original appearance, including Štefánik’s statue alongside the lion. Both statues will be formally unveiled on May 4, the 90th anniversary of Štefánik’s death.

The concept of the original Štefánik memorial was designed by Czech sculptor Bohumil Kafka in the 1930s as a tribute to the Slovak hero. In addition to the statue of Štefánik, it included the lion as the symbol of the Czechoslovak Legions which Štefánik founded.

The original memorial was erected in 1938, but it did not last long. Fascists dismantled it after Hitler, it is said, made sarcastic comments after seeing it from the opposite bank of the Danube’s during a visit to Petržalka. “The cat must be removed!” he is alleged to have whispered.

The lion was preserved in storage and Štefánik’s statue remained in its place until the 1950s when it was melted down by the communists. In 1988, the lion returned to the front of the National Museum and is now registered as a historical monument. The statue is made of bronze and weighs 5.8 tonnes; it measures 6.5 metres from the lion’s muzzle to the tip of its tail, and is 4.1 metres high and 2.2 metres wide.

The new statue of Štefánik, standing almost 8 metres tall, has been cast in Moravia according to Kafka’s original design. Both statues will now be situated near the new building of the Slovak National Theatre, in the Eurovea zone. The base for the lion has already been prepared.

“It is of the same facia as the theatre building – Spiš travertine,” Šesták said. The old base on the embankment will be preserved and within three years its future should be decided.

The Štefánik Foundation has financed the restoration of the memorial with help from subsidies from the Culture and Defence Ministries, from the city of Bratislava and from various other donors.

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