The Stonehenge Sculptures of Ratko Vulanovic: They Call it Stone Town!

The Ada Stonehenge, aka Gates of Belgrade, photo by paramecijum

The Ada Stonehenge, aka Gates of Belgrade, photo by paramecijum, used with permission

Welcome back, Gentle Readers! Today our continuing tour of Stonehenge-ish things around the world takes us to the historic and beautiful city of Belgrade. The scene above was taken in a park that is on an island in the Sava River as it flows through the city, the island Ada Ciganlija. The official name of the collective sculptures seen here is the Gates of Belgrade, but they’re sometimes called Stone Town or the Ada Stonehenge. Which is where we come in.

From the Real Housewife of Belgrade, with permission

From the Real Housewife of Belgrade, with permission

These sculptures were created by sculptor Ratko Vulanovic. As you can see in this video, he is one of those people you can’t help but love, even if he doesn’t say one word you understand. There is also a wonderful-seeming article here, about him and the Stone Town sculptures he has created, but we have not been able to get a good translation of it. It seems to say that he loved stone from a young age, admiring cyclopean walls and world-famous Stonehenge, that he has a mythic personality, athletic muscles, superhuman strength, a white beard and golden hands. It says he began to process boulders as the ancients did, eventually forming a whole city of stone, but that it looked supernatural and since people are not allowed to compete with the gods, those gods of the lower world took apart his achievement.

This is true. In Niksic, Montenegro, he laboured over a grouping of these sculptures in 1993 near the Palace of King Nicola, as the article puts it, drawing “from the stone wonderful synergy of beauty, rapture and awe” with “hints of stone Empire Luxor, Baalbek, Pompeii, their phantasmagorical streets, squares, colonnades, capitals and portals.” But in 2008, Niksic officials had the sculpture group, called Kameni Grad, or Stone Town, destroyed. Only photographs of that masterpiece remain.

Stone Town, Niksic.

Stone Town, Niksic.

It is not clear to us whether the Gates of Belgrade include any of the stone used in the former sculpture, but many people see it as the new Stone Town. It seems hard to believe, but more than one source suggests that Vulanovic received little or no money for the work. They call it his gift to Belgrade. Meanwhile, vandals have been at work destroying the new sculptures, knocking the stones down some time in 2011. The article that mentions that says that it was hoped that one of the cranes being used to build the beautiful new bridge across the Sava might help Mr. Vulanovic to set the stones back up. We hope it was done!

It says he comes out very early in the morning and washes in the cold fountain, then works all day carving stone and wood. We think it says that when the journalist exclaims that it is -10 degrees C, Vulanovic says, there is no creativity without passion!

Usually we’re funny on this blog, or we try to be, but once in a while we’re awed. This is one of those times. This isn’t a true Stonehenge replica, but we’re glad it was brought to our attention. The research for it took us on a journey of discovery, not all of which we had room for here, discovery of a great artist and of a culture that writes and thinks in grand terms about its great artists. Today we’re grateful to have gotten a glimpse of that man and that world. We won’t award this man any druids. We think he may be one.

Ratko Vulanovic

Ratko Vulanovic

P.S.: We’re also tracking down stories of a sculptor known for Stonehenge-like sculptures, including one in Zurich. We’ll get to that post somewhere down the line. We have sillier things to share before that. And until next time, dear friends, happy henging!

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