The Independence Monument – Tulcea

Spread the love


Autor: Cornel Pulbere


On the 14th of November 1878, Dobrogea area was 15.776 square metres and was made up of: islands forming the Danube Delta, Tulcea Sangiac, 11 districts: Kilia, Sulina, Mahmudia, Isaccea, Macin, Babadag, Harsova, Kiustenge, Medgidia, West land of  Silistra up to Mangalia, Snake Island.

The population of Dobrogea, at that time, was: 226.000 people (from which 127.000 muslims) dispensed in ethnic groups: Tatar = 71.000, Turkish = 49.000, Romanians = 47.000, Bulgarians = 30.000 and the rest 36.000 = Jewish, Greeks, Armenians, Russians, Circassians and Germans.

2.Historical context

The moment of 14th of November 1878 began with the signature of the Treaty in Berlin 1st-13th of July, art.22-46, Romania being represented by I.C.Bratianu – Romanian Prime Minister and M.Kogalniceanu – Minister of Foreign Affairs and put across by King Carol the 1st Proclamation and Romanian Army invasion in Dobrogea.

Personalities attending the event: His Majesty King Carol the 1st, I.C.Bratianu – Romanian Prime Minister, M.Kogalniceanu – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Colonel Slaniceanu – Minister of War, General Cernat Alex. – Commander of Romanian Army, Colonel Arion, Colonel Fălcoianu. There was appointed a „Commissioner for gaining Dobrogea into Romanian dominance” – N.Catargiu. General Al.Anghelescu was appointed the Commander of Dobrogea Military Division. N.Opran was appointed as Tulcea Prefect and subsequently, in Constanta, G.Ghica was appointed.

3. About the monument

The Heros Monument of the Independence War is placed on Hora Hill (today the Monument Hill), in the Monument Park, close to the  Aegyssus Castle ruins.

The foundation rock was set on the 17th of October 1879, in the presence of the King Carol the 1st regelui Carol I. Sculptor George Vasilescu designed and performed the Monument.

’’The League for Dobrogea Prosperity’’, guided by the poet Ion Nenițescu, had the initiative of the Monument as an homage to the heroism and courage of the Romanian people in the war against the Ottoman domination (1877-1878).

The work was started by the sculptor George Vasilescu and finished by the sculptor Constantin Bălăcescu in 1899, but the official opening took place much later, in 1904, in the presence of  King Carol the 1st and Queen Elisabeth.

The Monument was built in the honour of the Romanian soldiers who fought in the Independence War (1877-1878) and to remind the reunion of Dobrogea with Romania. The necessary funds for the monument were raised with the help of ’’The League for Dobrogea Prosperity’’. On the 17th of October 1879, Carol the 1st set the foundation rock of the monument. Finalized in 1899, the monument was inaugurate on the 2nd of  May 1904, also in the presence of King Carol the 1st.

In its initial form, the monument was placed on a square plan pedestal, two steps, two paralelipipedical volumes and a piramid trunk, made up of Dobrogea granite, furnished with girdle and cornices, on which an imperial obelisk of 22 meters height, made up of Ravena granite, was proudly set up. At the obelisk basis there were two sculptural elements, a carry militar with a bugle in his hand  and the second sculptural element, a giant wide opened wings eagle.

On the frontage of the pedestal there was a board with the following text:  ’’This monument was amounted by the citizens of Tulcea, in the year of  MDCCXCIX (1879), for undying memory of Dobrogea turning over to its ancestral home strămoşesc carried on by the Romanian Army bravery, under King Carol the 1st ruling’’.

In the years of the first World War the monument was destroyed by the Bulgarian troups. Partially rebuilt in 1932, by caring of the architect G.T.Ionescu, it was finished in 1977 when, with the occasion of the Independence Centenary, by caring of the sculptor Cristea Grosu, the soldier statue and the eagle statue were restored. A new board, with a new text, was set on the monument: ’’This monument was built by the citizens of Tulcea in 1879 as a symbol of the heroism and bravery of the Romanian people in the fight against Ottoman domination and for the Independence of Romania”.

The Independence Monument was rebuilt only in 1932, after its destruction between 1916 – 1918, but without the soldier statue and eagle statue.

The accomplishment of the monument is due to the citizens of Tulcea,  with the financial support of all the inhabitants and it was built for the memory of the Romanian Army in the Independence War and Dobrogea reunion with România. The foundation  rock was set by King Carol the 1st, during his visit in Tulcea, between 17th – 18th of October 1879.

Here it is the foundation document: ‘’The year 1879, month October, within seventeen days, His Highness Carol the 1st, Romania’s Majesty, this fundamental rock foundation was set for the monument in Tulcea Municipality, on Hora’s Mountain for the memory of Dobrogea and Romania reunion, under the religious blessing of Holy Iosif – the Bishop of Low Danube, witnessed by Mihail Kogălniceanu – Internal Affairs Minister, Colonel D. Leca – War Minister, George M. Ghica – Prefect of Tulcea County, General Al. Angelescu – Commander of Dobrogea Military Division and Dimitrie Theodoroff – the first Mayor of Tulcea” .

The monument was designed as a 22 meters high obelisk, its corner stone being a two steps pedestal. Two sculptural elements were set at the basis of the obelisk: a carry soldier with a bugle in his hand ; the second element is an eagle, main element of the Romanian Country coat of arms.

The Monument was finished in 1899, but the official opening took place much later, on the 2nd of May 1904, in the presence of King Carol the 1st and Queen Elisabeth, the Mayor of the city, N. Comșa. In his speech he said:

’A wish of Your Highness was accomplished: the Imperial Monument of Dobrogea returning was built on that beautiful hill appointed by Your Highness. It will speak to posterity about the soldier and the Great Commander’s bravery, our Glorious King (…)” .

The Centenary Anniversary of the Romanian State Independence, in the year of  1977, the Monument regained its initial form owing to sculptor Cristea Grosu.

On the 15th (17th) of October 1879, King Carol the 1st arrived in Tulcea, on the board of Arpad ship, accompanied by an important retinue. Although, the United Pricipalities of Moldavia and Romanian Country (the name of Romania was to be used from 1881) owned a royal yacht, Stephan the Great, built in 1867 and used as mines during the Independence War, the royal delegation uses for travel a rented ship from Austrian society DDSG. At the time of the retinue’s arrival, the people of Tulcea didn’t realize very well the moment, so least probably were thinking of a monument building. Only a couple of months were passed since the tzarist army left Tulcea (the last war ships left Tulcea harbour in April 1879), together with the Russian Governor Belțercovici. One of the Turkish – Russian war’s reason had been the independence of the Bulgarian people and creation of a state for them. So everybody would have bet important amounts in the idea that Tulcea, together with the entire Dobrogea, was about to be part of Bulgaria, according to the Russians promise, or worst, to get into their domination. The offer made to Romanians by the Russians, i.e. Dobrogea in change for Basarabia, surprised all the people, including the Romanians that considered themselves friends and allies. But in politics there are not allies for ever. So, the Tzarist Empire gets Dobrogea from the Ottoman Empire, as a war compensation and imposes to the United Principates of Moldavia and Romanian Country a truce, without too many negociations, through which they got Basarabia and offered Dobrogea. Following to these political games, people of Tulcea were very close, along one year, to become Russians, Bulgarians and in the end to become Romanians. We have to recognize that after this real auction, there is no time for thinking to build a monument. More than sure that the idea of the Independence Monument in Tulcea belonged to one of the Carol’s royal retinue member, Mihail Kogălniceanu or maybe General-Doctor Carol Davilla, the author of the noble gesture to set his own decorations close to the rock foundation. But surely, they didn’t have any idea how the monument was about to look or even if there was a draft, there is unlikely that this should have travelled in time, almost 20 years, so that it should get materialized. With certainty, the location and orientation of the monument were established by these people, based on the non-verifiable information that Carol the 1st himself is the one who had chosen the place  for the monument on Hora Hill, being impressed by its greatness. If Carol’s  attraction for the granite rock was something natural, taking into consideration that for almost two thousand years, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans had built on it castles and forts, the way they thought the monument placement is extremely important. There was decided that this should be positioned facing the Danube, in fact towards Ismail and entire Basarabia, so that the Russians, that dominated it for a period of time, shouldn’t forget that the Romanians don’t forget this thing! A simple message, full of courage for a nation that had just crystallized as a state. During his time spent in Tulcea, Carol the 1st was hosted by Ellman family, in their own hose, the owner being one of the wealthiest person in Tulcea, big entrepreneur of grains and wood. From the balcony of his house, situated on Babadag street, the officials assisted to the Romanian Army’s parade, at the arrival in Tulcea, in 1878. After the religious thanksgiving, Carol the 1st settled the rock foundation and Doctor Carol Davilla his own decorations. There is a story version which says that during the event, being strongly touched, he would have whiped his decorations off and with tears in his eyes, he would have knelled down and put them at the rock foundation. The archaelogists team  who participated in 1977 at the monument rehabilitation works would have searched for these decorations, not being able to find them.

The rock foundation of this fight for independence symbol was set on the 17th of October 1879, in less than one year since the civil and military authorities arrival in town, event registered on the 18th of November 1878. The festive event on the Hora Hill was attended, besides Romania’s Commander, His Highness Carol the 1st, the Minister of Internal Affairs – M.Kogălniceanu, the War Minister Col.D.Leca, together with Gen.Al.Anghelescu – the Commander of the Military Division in Dobrogea. The religious thanksgiving was given by the Bishop of Low Danube Land, Sacred Father Iosif, as it is mentioned in the foundation document. Also, at the monument base was laid in a royal sealed cilinder, ’’The Romanian Prince Carol’s the 1st of Hohenzolern Proclamation to Dobrogean people ” (read on the 14th of November 1878).

Time was passing by but the works for the monument didn’t start. Also, it took 18 years for appointing the poet Ioan Nenitescu (1854 – 1901) as a Prefect of Tulcea, in July 1897, so that the monument to become a reality. The author of the poems  ’’Lion cubs” și ’’My country”, had enrolled as a volunteer in the Independence War and had been decorated with the Romanian Star and Military Virtue.

The idea of having the Independence Monument was supported by The League for Dobrogea Prosperity, settled in 1896, which succeeded to gather only  30.000 lei.

After the enthusiastic patriot Prefect Nenițescu succeeded to gather in a time record the necessary amount for the monument  (90.000 lei), through the citizens mobilization, in the autumn of 1896, the young sculptor George Vasilescu arrived in Tulcea (1864 – 1898), in order to sign the contract for the long waited edifice. He was only 33 years old and he was reccommended for the achievement of the Monument ’’Battalion II Hunters’’ built in Ploiesti.

The young sculptor was fully free in building the memorial monument. He imagined it as an obelisk of 22 meters height, its base being a monumental stair. Two statues were settled on each sides: a carry soldier with a bugle in his hand  and the second sculptural element, a giant wide opened wings eagle. (Furthermore the soldier statue was taken over as an idea, in a bigger copy, engineer Anghel Saligny’s future bridge over the Danube).

For achieving the most voluminous element, the 22 meters height obelisk, built of red Biaveno granite, George Vasilescu left for Venice. Coming back to Tulcea, for managing the monument works, he caught a bad cold and was hospitalized in Coltea Hospital in Bucharest din Capitala but despite the efforts for saving his life, he dies on the 11th of November 1898.

The mission was taken over by  Constantin Balacescu (1865 – 1913), the one that in 1902 achieved the statue of  Mircea cel Batran. The three pieces were settled on the basement in big time intervals, so that the official opening of the monument took place on the 2nd of May 1904, in the presence of King Carol the 1st and Queen Elisabeth. This way, the royal dream became reality, as the Mayor of Tulcea, Nicolae Comșa stated at that time: ‘’A wish of Your Highness rise on that beautiful rock settled by Your Highness. It will speak to posterity about the soldier and the Great Commander’s bravery, our Glorious King (…)”

The first World War, would have affected the obelisk on the Hora Hill, being destroyed by the Bulgarian troops. It was diassembled and carried to Bulgaria as a trophy, same as Mircea cel Batran statue, their basement being exploded. These aspects were detailed by colonel Marin Ionescu – Dobrogianu, in the study „ Bulgarian invasion between 1916 – 1918 Tulcea county” : ’’The great monument of Dobrogea annexation and the statue of Mircea cel Batran near the Public Garden were raised as trophees and their basements were blown up”.

If the bronze statue of Mircea cel Batran, standing with raised mace towards the Danube and his girdle sword, has never been rehabilitated (only in 1972 in the Civic Market of Tulcea an equestrian statue of the commander will be built by  Ion Jalea), the Independence Monument was rebuilt in 1933. Yet, because of the limitated financial resources, the soldier and eagle statues were given up. Celebrating the Independence Centenary, on the 9th of May 1977, the Monument was rebuilt in its initial form, the two sculptural elements being realized by the architect Cristea Grosu.

The hill where the Independence Monument lays (where the Aegyssus castle ruins are) can be reached climbing the stairs and today it is simply called  ’’The Hill of the Monument”, being an important touristical point.  There is also here, the Historical and Archaeological Museum. In its precinct you can find a statue of Carol the 1st.

In the former century, the Hill of the Monument was called by the citizens of Tulcea ’’the Mills Hill’’, as there were built lots of wind mills or ’’Hora Hill’’ reminding the celebrating dances that the Ottoman community organized there.

As a rough guide over the centuries of the great moment of the 14th of November 1878, the Independence Monument remains a symbol of Tulcea and Dobrogea completeness, about which our duty is to always remember.