The story of the monument of Saint George killing the dragon in Cluj-Napoca

Eva Poteaca | Live the World

November 23, 2022

One can often find the works art and architecture made by European artists in Romania. But there is one artwork made by Romanian artists and kept in Prague, where the capital of the Habsburg Monarchy once was. A copy of that artwork you can see in Cluj-Napoca. This is the story of the monument of Saint George killing the dragon, a masterpiece created in Cluj-Napoca.

The story of Saint George

Saint George was a Roman priest and soldier, a contemporary of Diocletian, the Roman emperor. In the year 302, Diocletian ordered that all Christian soldiers are to be arrested and that they should offer a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. One soldier who opposed this decision was Saint George, a Christian soldier. The emperor made him many offers, including a land, money, and slaves but Saint George never accepted it. He was therefore executed in the year 303.

There is another version of this story. Once there was a dragon nesting near the city of Silene. The locals had to pass the dragon nest in order to get the access to the spring that provided the water. So, each day, they offered the dragon a sheep in order to cross safely. Until one day, when there were no sheeps left. The locals started offering the maidens to the dragon, chosen by drawing lots. One day, the princess was chosen. She was almost offered to the dragon when Saint George appeared. He killed the dragon and rescued the princess. This is the reason why the locals abandoned their paganism and converted to the Christianity.

The monument of Saint George killing the Dragon in Cluj-Napoca

The monument in Cluj-Napoca is a copy of the famous statue of Saint George killing the Dragon made by the local craftsmen Martinus and Georgius in the year 1373. There were two copies made in the 20th century, one from Cluj-Napoca and one located in the 3rd courtyard of the Royal Castle in Prague. The original is kept in the National Gallery in Prague. At the beginning of the 20th century, the City Council and the emperor Francis Joseph recognized the value of the monument and decided to make the copies. The design of the statues solid pedestal with a Gothic setting from Cluj-Napoca** **was made by the architect Kálmán Lux.

The copy in he 3rd courtyard of the Royal Castle in Prague

This monument is considered a Gothic masterpiece. Firstly, there’s the aesthetic value. Martinus and Georgius presented the theme in a composition of a surprising liveliness. Saint George represented as a soldier on a horseback, sinks his spear into the mouth of the dragon as it tries to bite his leg, the tail of the dragon is curled around the leg of the horse. The deep feeling of space around the two main figures is due to their twisted position. The equestrian figure of the saint is situated in a rocky landscape, surrounded by the vegetation and representations of a snake, a lizard, and a frog.

Secondly, it is one of the rare examples of equestrian statues of that time. The statue made by using the technique of the lost-wax casting has almost a natural size. The size is also an outstanding initiative for the period.

The statue of Saint George killing the dragon is one of the masterpieces of Cluj-Napoca craftsmen, and one of the most important works of central-European late Gothic sculpture. It also tells us a story of political decisions, and its copy in Cluj-Napoca lets us get closer to this masterpiece.

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