The investigations of cross-making in Kupiškis area during the Soviet time

Skaidrė Urbonienė

Based on papers published in Soviet time, photos and accumulated manuscript materials describing and fixing small architecture sacral monuments in Kupiškis area, the paper defines peculiarities of olden cross-making traditions in the area. The analysis distinguishes which investigations had been done, the material published and accumulated in Soviet time, as well as what it tells us about the olden tradition and its fate in Soviet time. To check some facts, the data collected before the WWII and photographs have been used as well.

The Soviet investigations on cross-making were mainly of a local lore/history type and presenting mainly descriptions of craftsmen biographies and definition of some works done by them. Not all local history materials had been published, and their major part rested in archives. Nevertheless, the material accumulated in the Soviet period is valuable from a scientific point of view. Today, relying upon it, we can study the olden tradition of cross-making and its fate in Soviet time. The photographed pictures show various fixed monuments, which survived from the first half of the 20th c., or some of them reached even the end of the 19th c. Quite a few names of masters who created the sacral monuments had been determined at that time and the sculptures they produced had been named. Therefore now this material accumulated by scholars, museum officials and local history researchers plays a role of valuable visual and written sources for those who investigate the olden cross-making monuments.

A great contribution to cross-making investigations in Kupiškis area had been made by Juozas Petrulis, a local historian and museologist. Due to the material (published and written or iconographic) collected by him we know now many names of god-carvers and crossmakers who worked in Kupiškis area. He was the first author who revealed the names of prominent craftsmen (K. Adomavičius, Anundžis, Kantičkius, Simonas, J. and J. Čepėnai, J. Dagys, V. Žekonis) as well as fixed and published their exhaustive biographies, and uncovered some more names of less prominent masters.

Looking at the iconographic material accumulated during the Soviet period, one can see that the oldest monuments built in mid-19th c. and early-20th c. were high (single-storey, or double-storey) roof-poles. From the second half of the 19th c. they begin to be replaced by decorated crosses with a little chapel of an altar shape at the centre. These crosses prevail at the end-19th c. and early-20th c. and are related to the names of cross craftsmen Jonas Dagys and Juozapas Čepėnas (Sr.). From early- to mid.-20th c., the modestly decorated crosses with altar-shaped chapel pervaded and were related to the name of cross maker Juozapas Čepėnas (Jr.). At the first half of the 19th c., less decorated crosses (without an altar-shaped chapel) started to be made with tracery or profiled plates on the lower part of the bar between the intersections or with small rays around the intersection.

At the beginning of the 20th c., the tradition of the massive chapel-poles, where chapel is open from all sides, spread with a certain subject sculpture (most often, a scene of Baptism of Jesus or a sculpture of St. John of Nepomuk) added. Some chapels used to be erected on the trees.

The material published and accumulated in Soviet times shows that cross crafting in the area of Kuppiškis reflects features most typical for the East Aukštaitija region. The monumental, richly decorated crosses with an altar-shaped chapel at the intersection, decorated double-storey or single-storey roof-poles, massive chapel-poles with open chapel were also characteristic of the Kupiškis area belonging to this region.

The monuments shot in the Soviet period show their unenviable fate. The most decorated and the oldest monuments had suffered most. This was due not only to natural conditions, but also to unfavourable Soviet atmosphere towards the religion monuments. No wonder that majority of them hadn't survived, but the culture workers managed to save at least the parts of these monuments – sculptures and iron tops which one can see in some museums.