The cross making in the environs of Gelgaudiškis: traces of traditions

Skaidrė Urbonienė

Based on iconography and material collected during the 2003 expedition and people’s narrations, the cross making traditions typical of the Gelgaudiškis area from the first half of the 20th century to this day are discussed in the paper. The wooden monuments of folk small architecture–wooden crosses, roofed poles and chapels put on the trees–are examined in prospect of tradition and innovation. Also monuments of farmsteads, road-sides, cemeteries and church-yards are discussed, their art expression is analysed, and their most typical features and peculiarities are determined. Also, the background related to erection of such monuments is presented, and its significance in the life of a person and the society is evaluated. 

The cross-making monuments in the environs of Gelgaudiškis show that the traditions in erection of crosses in the first half of the 20th century are still cherished. The old monuments are being restored with conservation of their shape, decoration elements, or even using their old parts. The characteristic features of crosses of this period are their height, slender and elegant proportions, as well as a Sun silhouette formed of geometric or plant motive rays.

Erecting new crosses, traditional sites are chosen, usually the roadsides. The art expression of newly-made crosses mostly accord with local traditions: they are simple, laconic, decorated with relief carving on its pole or its centre, also temperate decoration–a crown of rays, as a rule–often distinguishes the centre of the intersection of the cross bars. The motive of lily, popular in Suvalkija area, is often used in old and new crosses. Zanavykai–people inhabiting this area–used to mark the cross with inscriptions indicating whose this cross is, who donated, and when it was erected. This tradition is respected nowadays as well. The variety in local traditions is expanded by folk masters, especially those coming from other regions (e.g., V. Jackūnas, who comes from Aukštaitija).