Eyes are watching to see if citizens will embrace a national project

A special concert of sacred music performed two months ago, in the 13th-Century St. Michael's Roman-Catholic Cathedral at Alba-Iulia, Romania, led by Valerie Ciolos-Villeman, wife of Romania's Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, was organized to rally the country's citizens to a national cause, namely, the purchase by the state of a statue carved from limestone, called Cumintenia Pamantului ("The Wisdom of the Earth"), created in 1907 by Romania's most important and celebrated sculptor, Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957).

Temporarily, for convenience of Bucharest citizens, the statue was put on display in the lobby of the National Bank of Romania downtown.

"The truth is that it is an iconic sculpture for Romanians," explained Alexandru Baldea in his interview with The Guardian newspaper. Mr. Baldea is managing partner of the Romanian auction house which has been charged with handling the statue's sale. "It's an iconic image that is present in all the books about our national identity. The state used it a lot in its cultural propaganda and transformed it into an icon of the Romanian soul."

"I am going to donate,"Valerie Ciolos told the concert audience in Alba Iulia. Her husband had already pledged to donate his entire Prime Minister's salary for the month of April to the crowdfunding campaign, which seeks to raise 6-million Euros before the end of September; otherwise, the statue's present owners intend to put it up for auction on the international market.

"Why donate?" Valerie Ciolos-Villemin asked rhetorically. "To me, it is about a symbol, about Brancusi, who is a Romanian, a man who always looked for the essence of things and who was an exceptional person. The statute rightfully belongs to the Romanian people. In fact, to me it is about a symbol, an archetype to which anyone can contribute what they can afford."

The Roman-Catholic cathedral at Alba Iulia was an especially appropriate venue for this fundraising concert on behalf of the Brancusi statue-purchase campaign, as it is steeped in history. The foundations of the building date back tothe 11th-Century, with the current structure being built during the 13th-Century after the original building met destruction during a Mongol invasion, and thus it is the oldest surviving cathedral in the country, looking for most of the past 800 years much as it does in the photograph above. Bishops, warriors and dignitaries from past eras of Romanian history are entombed inside the sanctuary and are visible to visitors.

Among them lies the coffin of John Hunyadi (1406-1456). He was the dominant political and military leader of eastern europe in the 15th Century, and is credited with stopping the Turkish army from a westward march to seize control of the Holy Roman Empire.

Adjacent to St. Michael's Roman-Catholic church sits an Orthodox Cathedral, built in 1922-23 to be the site for the coronation of King Ferdinand, and today known as the "coronation cathedral."

And the city of Alba Iulia itself has special significance for Romanians, being the best preserved of the seven medieval walled citadels of Transylvania, with past customs and ceremonies still being honored.

The National Day of Romania, celebrated annually on December 1, commemorates the "Great Union" of Transylvania with the rest of Romania's provinces, which was proclaimed in 1918 at Alba Iulia.

So now the world is watching to see if Romania's citizens will rise to the challenge of donating an average of less than one-euro-per-person for the retention of a famous artwork representing their acclaimed sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

15 JUL 2016