Cross-making monuments in the cemetery of Kupiškis

Jolanta Zabulytė

The cross-making monuments of different types – cast, forge wrought and tube-shaped metal crosses as well as stone and wooden ones – in the cemetery of Kupiškis at the end-19th c. to the first half of the 20th c. have been discussed in tradition continuation aspects. After the definition of the cross-making monuments is done, the following conclusions can be made.

Cast crosses of mass production remained rather numerous, thus showing it was a rich land, as in the case of stone crosses. The oldest cast cross had been erected in 1857, while others are dated as the second half of the 19th c. to the first half of the 20th c., coinciding with a wide spread of such crosses in Lithuania. However the types of crosses common in Aukštaitija and other regions had not been popular here or had not remained; some of them are rare specimens or even unique, which had not been detected in other areas yet. According to the shape, modestly ornate one-piece band crosses prevail, while models of openwork decor are met in lower numbers and they are mainly of Neogothic style met in many Lithuanian cemeteries, but there are also some of rarer shapes.

There are only 10 forged crosses remained from the second half of the 19th c. to the first half of the 20th c. in the cemetery of Kupiškis, although in 1988 they were 28. The oldest one is dated as in 1861; according to their structure two pole crosses typical of the Aukštaitija region prevail. The majority of forged crosses remained and part of the lost ones are notable for peculiarity in decoration motives and arrangement principles, e.g., the cross centre is accented by a four-leaf flower, while drawing motives on the arms and the pole are different; there are also unique examples of decoration of the arm interior. The two-pole crosses forged by P.Buzas did not remain, but there are two one-pole Sun-shape monuments wrought by this artisan. One can guess, based on this style character, that one cross erected in 1873 belongs to P.Buzas, but data confirming this are lacking.

As in all Lithuania, modern forged crosses as grave monuments are rare in Kupiškis–just six. The style of some two-pole crosses resembles the olden monuments, while others are modestly decorated with principles differing from olden décor arrangements applied. In style, one-pole forged iron crosses remind often shapes of the iron top shining suns and reflect the tendency in nowadays Lithuania.

Approximately from the 1940s-1950s the tube-pole crosses spread in Lithuania had not become popular in Kupiškis–up to 2013 only 12 such crosses have been erected. Their additional adornment resembles that in monuments created in other areas of Lithuania during the Soviet period, but there are also specific arrangements made, e.g., the use of square frame at the centre of the cross.

Stone crosses erected in the second half of the 19th c. and the first half of the 20th c. are rather numerous, and, as in other areas, two forms prevail–simple crosses on a higher or lower pedestal, and tree trunk with cut branches simulating version of Neo-Romanticism style. These monuments had been made by local artisans mainly. An exceptional trait of stone crosses in Kupiškis is rather high crosses with three-leaf ends of cross arms on a low pedestal. Several modern stone crosses on a high pedestal witness the continuation of the 19th c. tradition, but some improvisations also take place. This is a version of stone monolith chapel poles typical of Žemaitija region, i.e., stylised combinations of chapel poles with stelae.

The examples studied in Kupiškis area reveal that at the end of the 19th c. and the first half of the 20th c., the mushroom- or torch-shaped wooden roof-poles typical of the Aukštaitija area had been built; ornate crosses with chapel-altars popular, and chapel-poles with open chapels present. Nowadays no signs of this tradition in Kupiškis cemetery are detected–there is only one roof-pole reflecting the shape typical of Žemaitija monuments, monumental wooden crosses are few; they are of modest décor and, as in all Lithuania, the interpretations of chapel poles and little chapels on earth prevail, such as sculpture poles most often with relief or bass-relief Pensive Christ images (Rūpintojėlis) images.