The Soul of Monuments - introductory text for EHD 2010 from Václav Michalička - Novojičínsko Museum
The Soul of Monuments
What actually is a monument? A monument remembers something or someone and is reminiscent of something concrete or abstract. A monument can be anything that contains recollections of events and persons of the recent or distant past, and its present existence reminds us of them. The term monuments is also used for buildings, which are silent witnesses that serve and are often adapted to the needs of their owners. They undergo inevitable alterations to serve the requirements of man which are changing constantly and yet witness times beyond the human memory. Buildings which witnessed the bygone days can reveal much about the people who built them, used them and lived in them. Many of these revelations are incredibly detailed and suggestive, and the message is so strong that the monuments are protected as witnesses and documents for the future generations to read. Yes, buildings can be as understandable as books, but sometimes concentration is needed to see what is written between the lines. And so buildings reflect human deeds and due to their contact with the past they revive and deepen human memory. Memory which goes beyond the boundaries of ages becomes a long-desired way of mankind to overcome and defeat the unstoppable passage of time and transience of everything. It is actually a road to immortality, the human dream.
The human dream about an immaterial substance outlasting death – such is the everlasting search for the human soul, the soul which used to be regarded as immortal. But where is it to be sought? The immortal soul could possibly be created by human deeds, desires and wishes, and maybe it is the human will and thinking.
Human creations, which include buildings, absorb the products and results of the human soul. Sometimes they can suck them up like a sponge soaks up water. The human soul transposed into a lifeless object gives it higher contents, spiritual contents, and buildings – remembrances of human deeds – are given another dimension. These new contents, sometimes accumulated for centuries by many human generations, are actually that immortal soul, that memory which outlasts the unmerciful passage of time. But monuments are not everlasting and, as everything, suffer from the gnawing tooth of time. Man does his best to prevent destruction, to slow it down, and to preserve the memory – the soul of monuments – for himself and his posterity for as long as possible. The desire is great. But not everybody has the same view of the concealed impalpable soul and the capability to recognise it clearly, and not everybody feels the same need to protect it. Everybody sees it their own way and every monument can address different people differently – everybody has a way of understanding.
The wealth of individualities in the human civilization has left behind traces of their creative spirit some of which have remained imprinted in the buildings. We should protect and take care of their immortal message, their fragile vulnerable soul, as valuable and inimitable heritage, and develop and enrich this living bequest, which must not stagnate, but be upgraded
Václav Michalička, Novojičínsko Museum