Finis Coronat Opus

“It is no big deal to bend it to the ground. Yet it will be difficult to straighten it again”. These prophetic words, uttered by the character Brancusi in Mircea Eliade’s play on the Endless Column, turned out to be true during the four years elapsed between the “beheading” of the monument on September 14, 1996 – the feast of the Holy Cross -and its restoration in December 2ooo. For four years the steel spine of the Column had been left unprotected, to the mercy of winds and snow, providing nesting to crows. The cast iron modules were brutally dismantled, using a sledge hammer,and cracks subsequently occurred.In the uppermost full module a big hole was drilled, liable to pose difficult problems. But for that ill-fated interference, the Column would have stood unbent for a long time. The harmful initiative of replacing the original work by a succedaneum was stopped , thanks to the Minister of Culture, Ion Caramitru. Following the advice of UNESCO experts, with the financial support of the World Bank and of the World Monument Fund, a true restoration was performed, based on a project submitted by a team of the Union of Plastic Artists. Brancusi used to state : ” My life has been a succession of marvels”. The erection of the Column in 1937 was such a marvel, involving the hard work of the people accustomed to fabricate props and equipment for mine galleries, at the Petrosani Central Workshops. Another marvel was the fact that the restoration project could be implemented by the teams of specialists from “Turbomecanic” and “Plasmajet”, skilful makers of airplane engines. A Time Bridge was thus created, spanning the toil of those connected to the depths of earth and the efforts of specialists who make flight possible. “Flight, what bliss !” would say Brancusi… I visited the restoration site of the Column, when the operations on the spine were being completed. I came again, to be present at the hoisting and threading of the last modules onto the spine.I watched the aerial voyage of those priceless “babies” in their “cradle”, lifted with utmost care by a hydraulic crane. I was amazed by the wonderful abnegation of the whole team – workers and engineers -, who worked day and night, headed by engineer Virgil Calea, programme director from Turbomecanica, and by engineer Ion Trusca, specialist in plasma jet metallizations “verging on the impossible”. It seemed that they actually entered into the spirit of team work which had characterized those who erected the Column in the thirties. As a matter of fact, restorers highly admired the solidity of the work achieved by their predecessors. The “film” of the erection of the Column in 1937 has been continued in 2ooo, by video records of each and every stage of the restoration process. The most updated and sophisticated technology of the end of a millenium was used. The dry weather, altogether unusual for winter months, may also be thought of as a miracle. And, on December 17, when the Metropolitan Bishop of Oltenia re-consecrated the renascent Column, the brightness of the sun, shining in the cloudless sky, seemed to confirm the unique destiny of this symbol of our people. •The sight of the Endless Column always reminds me of Ezra Pound’s words: “A man hurls himself toward the infinite and the works of art are vestiges, his trace in the manifest” (Ezra Pound, Brancusi, “The Little Review”, London, VIII, L’autumn, 1921).And I also remember the last word, whispered on his death-bed by engineer Stefan Georgescu-Gorjan, my father: “VERTICAL!”.  

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