Czech Genealogy & History: The Frieze of the Czechs in the World’s Only Czech Cultural Garden
If you have been following our genealogy and history website, you may recall we published our first article on the world’s only Czech Cultural Garden recently and followed it up with our second article, which focused more on the Czech Garden itself.
Today, thanks to the kind efforts of Paul Burik, chair of the Czech Cultural Garden Association, and local Cleveland businessman and historian, Dr. Stephen Sebesta, we bring you our in-depth look at what many, including myself, consider the crown jewel of the Czech Garden, the Frank L. Jirouch frieze of Czech history.
Unfortunately much of the history of the frieze is now lost. When I recently spoke with one of the descendants of sculptor Frank Jirouch, I was told very little is known about Frank and his work and there seem to be no extant materials remaining from Jirouch himself regarding his designing and crafting of this masterful work of art. Drat! You see the frieze lies atop the monumental stone wall at the center of the Garden.
However, Stephen Sebesta recently spent some time recently examining the frieze and provided his view of the characters contained therein. We also thank Paul Burik for this complete set of photos of the entire frieze!
“The right segment of the frieze depicts the legendary migration of various Slavonic tribes from the Vistula River region in the east of Boiohemum (land of the Boiians), which later took on the Latin form “Bohemia”.
The frieze depicts the migration of the tribes being led by Jan Cechus, their Chieftain, after whom the tribes became known as Cechs (modernized to Czechs). The segment also includes a portrayal of the Greek God Apollo carrying the sun in his hand from the east to the west on his chariot drawn by four horses as well as other historical and allegorical figures.
The Center segment of the frieze portrays the migration of the Czech people to America, depicted by an allegorical female figure holding a torch in her left hand, a lamp in her right hand, the sun illuminating her heard and a cornucopia of plenty spilling at her feet. There are two Indian figures standing on either side of America, both looking away from America toward the arriving Czechs, with one holding a peace pipe. Two children are holding hands across the front of the figure of America each supported by an adult.
Number figures are shown approaching America from the left and right, each representing a unique cultural gift. Many arts, sciences, professions, trades, and crafts are depicted. Music is portrayed by the violinist, the singer, and the conductor and theater is portrayed by the seated harlequin. Medicine is portrayed by the doctor and the nurse and there are figures depicting the fields of engineering, astronomy, chemistry, and science.
There are two figures portraying religion including one carrying a tablet representing the Ten Commandments and a briefcase followed by one dressed in religious garb and carrying a book and rosary in his left hand. The religious figures are followed by a robed and capped scholar portraying an academician. There are additional figures portraying painting, glass blowing, pottery making, jewelry, and cloth making as well as several other figures portraying artisans and trades craftsmen.
The left segment of the frieze includes a number of figures including the Greek mythological figure of Pegasus, the winged horse who reached Mount Olympus and several other allegorical symbols and figures, which suggest the many desirable qualities brought to America by the Czechs. Included are the eagle…the olive branch…the torch…and books…”
The more I study these photos (kindly provided by Paul Burik) I can’t help but wonder who many of the models were for Jirouch’s frieze-depicted Czechs. Are these the faces of local Czechs the sculptor knew? Were they some of the first Czechs to achieve these positions as nurse, doctor, pastor, etc? Were they family, friends?
I guess, at this point we can only wonder….
Onward To Our Past®