By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonia’s capital is to be dignified with a new 28-metre bronze statue of Philip of Macedon standing amid a luxurious complex of four fountains.
If all goes to plan, the complex will be even taller than the nearby statue of Alexander, which at 24 metres already towers over the centre of Skopje.
“The statue should be erected sometimes next year,” says Jovica Ackovski, the spokesperson of Skopje’s Centar municipality, which is ordering the monument.
The municipality has officially designated the statue “warrior with accompanying elements”, presumably in a bid not to upset Greece. This follows the previous pattern, when the government described the statue of Alexander simply as an equestrian warrior.
Rumours of Philip’s advent reached the public last December. At the tine, the the Mayor of Centar, Vladimir Todorovic, neither confirmed nor denied that the statue would be of Alexander’s Father.
“The warrior will be depicted in a standing position on top of a pedestal. He will be cast in bronze and will stand in the center of a tear-shaped fountain pedestal,” Ackovski said.
The author of the project, sculptor Valentina Stefkovska, in a recent interview for the national broadcaster, MTV said the statue would be 13 metres tall and the pedestal 15 metres tall, making a total of 28 meters.
Stefkovska, who also designed the statue of Alexander, said that the new fountains will be richly decorated with “figures, relief soldiers, horses and lions”.
Preparation works on the square where the complex is planned have already begun and a local company has been contracted to prepare the surroundings for the fountains. The cost of the contracts as well as of the statue itself remains a secret.
The controversial bronze statue of the Alexander along with the fountain pedestal cost over 9 million euros, the authorities revealed recently. The statue arrived in Skopje in mid-June and was soon assembled and erected on the city’s central Macedonia square.
The statue drew condemnation from Greek officials who said the move was provocative and retrograde and would further impede Macedonia’s EU and NATO accession bids.
Athens has prevented Skopje from joining NATO and is doing the same with Macedonia’s EU membership as a result of a long-standing dispute about use of the name “Macedonia” to which Greece objects.
The origin of Alexander the Great and of his father are at the heart of the dispute. Greece claims the warrior kings are an essential part of Hellenic history and culture.
In Macedonia, the statues are seen as the hub of a massive government-funded revamp of the capital, named “Skopje 2014”, which the government says will beautify the shabby-looking city.
The revamp of the city is ongoing with several buildings and monument already in place or nearing finished. The construction of a new national theatre, a history museum, ministry of foreign affairs and a museum of Macedonian struggle are already at an advanced stage.
Work continues on a triumphal arch, an obelisk and a new bridge. Dozens of large statues have already been erected in the heart of the city.
Skopje already has one smaller equestrian bronze statue of Philip in the suburb of Avtokomanda. This and another statue in the town of Bitola were erected last month at the same time as the statue of giant Alexander.