08 November 2019

Sculptures and statues
bring a light touch to
the heart of Bratislava

Čumil ‘the watcher’ or the ‘Man at Work’ is climbing out of a hole at a street corner in the Old Town of Bratislava (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

If Bratislava’s castle and cathedral are its most visited buildings, then its most photographed treasures are the sculptures and statues scattered throughout the Old Town.

It is impossible to walk the cobbled streets without noticing the small, embedded crowns that mark the route used to re-enact the royal procession, recalling the coronation of Habsburg emperors at Kings of Hungary in Saint Martin’s Cathedral for over 2½ centuries.

Royal crowns in the cobblestones mark the route of the royal procession (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

But the most popular sculptures in Bratislava are the statues of people who pop up on street corners or behind park benches throughout the old town. They bring a modern touch and a sense of humour to the old town centre, adding to its attractions.

Čumil ‘the watcher’ or the ‘Man at Work’ is the work of Viktor Hulik and seems to be climbing out of a hole at the corner of Rybárska Street and Panská Street.

One rumour says that he is a typical communist-era worker who is hardly bothered about the work he is supposed to be engaged in. A second story says he is looking up women’s skirts. Either way, he has been loitering at this street corner since 1997.

‘The Paparazzi’ was a statue of man about to shoot a photograph of people around the corner. For many years, he stood on the corner of Radničná Street and Laurinská Street, outside a restaurant called Paparazzi. However, when the restaurant closed down the owners took the statue with them, and he is now in the UFO restaurant.

Which explains why I never got to photograph him this week, although the city is negotiating to get him back as a popular tourist attraction.

‘Schone Naci’ or ‘Handsome Ignatius’ in his top hat and tails (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

‘Schone Naci’ or ‘Handsome Ignatius’ greets people on the corner of Sedlárska Street. Unlike the other statues, which are cast in bronze, this statue by Juraj Melis is the only one in the old town that is in silver.

The statue is named after Ignác Lamár, who lived in Pressburg, the former name of Bratislava, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Although he appears handsome and jolly, one story says his fiancée was deported to a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust and never returned. He never recovered psychologically from the trauma and spent his remaining days wandering along the Korzo in a top hat and tails, smiling at everyone.

Another story says he was in love with a woman who sadly did not return his love. He was so disappointed that he went mad and you could often see him giving flowers to random women he met in the streets.

I failed to find Napoleon’s Soldier on the Main Square, near the Old Town Hall, leaning on a bench you can sit on.

Napoleon and his army marched through Bratislava in 1805. This soldier is supposed to be Hubert, who was going through Bratislava when he fell in love with a local girl. He stayed in the city, became a producer of sparkling wine, and gave his name to Slovakia’s most popular brand of sparkling wine.

But close-by is a statue of a guardsman who has been in his wooden sentry box by the Town Guardhouse since 2006.

Hans Christian Andersen, the children’s storyteller, visited Bratislava in 1846 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Hviezdoslav Square has a large, imposing statue of the Slovak poet who gives his name to the square. But a few meters behind him is the more inviting statue of Hans Christian Andersen, the children’s storyteller, who once visited Bratislava in 1846.

In this statue by Tibor Bártfy, he looks tall, thin and a little bashful, with a giant snail looking up at him in awe.

The couple on a balcony are watching people going in and out of the Franciscan Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Other statues include two girls leaning on a post box, taking a break from skateboarding, four peeing boys in the courtyard of the Primate’s Palace, and the children playing with fish who replaced them in the fountain in front of the Opera House to save the blushes of opera-goers.

The peeing boys in the courtyard of the Primate’s Palace (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The statues of Bratislava can catch you unawares and surprise you … from the unexpected couple on a balcony who seem to be watching people going in and out of the Franciscan Church to the statue of Christ on the façade of a former pharmacist’s shop, supported by two small angels and who seems to be blessing people on their way to the cathedral.

The statue of Christ on a former pharmacist’s shop near the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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