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Amandus Adamson as the Perpetuator of the Memory of Bishop Platon

There is a sarcophagus of dolomite and bronze on the grave of the martyred Bishop Platon (born Paul Kulbusch on 13 July 1869, died on 14 January 1919), Estonia’s first Christian saint, and a monument with his bust in the churchyard of Tallinn’s Church of the Transfiguration of our Lord on Suur-Kloostri Street. To this day in Estonian cultural consciousness, the author of both of these works is the sculptor Amandus Adamson (1855–1929).

There is unfortunately no more comprehensive treatment of Bishop Platon’s memorial monuments to this date in Adamson’s bibliography. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to present this in treatments of art history from the Soviet era since Bishop Platon memorial works dedicated to a victim of the mass murder committed in the cellar of the Tartu Krediitkassa (Credit Bank) by the Commission for Combating Counterrevolution of the notorious Estonian Workers’ Commune of Tartu County. Nowadays the place where the murders were committed is marked by a memorial plaque affixed to the wall of the building at 3 Kompanii Street in 2011. Bishop Platon was the first bishop of Estonian origin, who set about actively building up the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church’s modern legislation, structure of the church hierarchy and other aspects necessary for the church organisation that would be appropriate for an independent country.

Thus the petition concerning building a memorial for Bishop Platon from the Council of the Estonian Diocese to the government was already dated in February of 1919. The resolution of Konstantin Päts, the Prime Minister at that time, dated 19 February 1919 is written on the petition: A. W. Postponed until the Constituent Assembly is convened.

At the same time, the reburial of Bishop Platon from his original burial place at the Tartu St. Virgin Mary’s Dormition Cathedral to Tallinn’s Church of the Transfiguration of our Lord, and all that was associated with this, was organised as a truly grandiose nationwide event that attracted large crowds.

The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church immediately started collecting donations at the start of the 1920s for Bishop Platon’s memorial. It was nevertheless not until 1929 that the monument with the bronze bust by Amandus Adamson was erected on a small plot in front of Tallinn’s Church of the Transfiguration of our Lord. The memorial with the bust was opened in the last year of Amandus Adamson’s life. Bishop Platon’s bust was evidently not originally meant for a separate memorial but rather was designed as part of the head of the sarcophagus with baroque ornamentation that was later placed on the bishop’s grave in the church. Amandus Adamson evidently already modelled Bishop Platon’s bust in 1920. His signature is found on the bust: ‘A. Adamson Baltiski 1920’.

The idea of depicting Bishop Platon as knowingly proceeding to meet his martyrdom as a cleric in the full bloom of life was followed in creating the bust. The bishop ordained as a hieromonk (priestmonk) is bareheaded and is not wearing a bishop’s cloak. He wears a black habit with a high collar, a pectoral cross and a panagia (an encolpion, an icon worn on the chest that serves as a bishop’s medallion of office), according to which his body, which was distorted by his executioners, was allegedly identified. A round medallion with the depiction of a cross hangs down from where it is affixed to his collar. This is the medallion of graduates of the St. Petersburg Clerical Academy.

The sarcophagus, the ornament of Bishop Platon’s grave, had also already been designed by Amandus Adamson at the start of the 1920s, yet for some reason the Synod did not find any opportunities for implementing the designs over the following ten years. The undersigned has to date unfortunately been unable to find the relevant correspondence between Adamson and the church administration. Yet the rich baroque ornamentation of the sarcophagus, the heads of the little cherubs and the acanthus motifs in relief surrounding the sarcophagus, and the rich complex of the bishop’s cloak, mitre, crosier, and the brier branch signifying martyrdom designed as a bronze inlay is characteristic of Adamson’s approach.

It is unclear why the search for someone to make the sarcophagus did not begin until after Amandus Adamson’s death. The statement concerning the acceptance of the work issued by the Synod’s commission is dated 15 January 1931, thus this labour intensive job was completed on the agreed deadline.