Some statues are not only inspiring with the stories that lie behind them, but they are also breathtaking to look at. Though statues were never my thing (might have been a trauma caused by the Manneken Pis in Brussels – the unspectacular peeing boy) and I therefore usually leave them out of my sightseeing list, some are actually even worth a trip to a certain destination. Take the the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand, the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, or the Sphinx of Memphis in the surroundings of Cairo, Egypt, for example.
But these worldly famous ones you can find in any Google search. Although they are, indeed, breathtaking, we will dedicate this post to the ones that you might have never heard about. The ones that are alluring exactly because they still have a bit of secrecy surrounding them, be in terms of history, isolation or even the carving might evoke in you an intriguing curiosity. In the case of some of them, the lack of notoriety makes me think it´s on purpose – as if the magical aura covering these monuments would break if dozens of tourists would stand in front of them, struggling for the perfect picture which will never catch their true spirit anyway.
It´s about the artistry, the story, or the place they complete – or challenge. A camera will never be able to portray their intricacies. But a picture can do a good job at triggering interest! Who knows if we will find our next vacation destination on this list?
1 Neptune – Poseidon
Location: Canary Islands, Spain
Sculptor: Luis Arencibia
The bronze statue of Poseidon is located by Melenara Beach, in Las Palmas. It is an imposing piece of art that does a great job in depicting the might of Poseidon, as well as his securing of the sea. When the waves are high and break against the unruffled sea God, one can really assume the Olympian will still reign over the Spanish sea for many years to come…if not forever.
2 The Seats of Nemrud
Location: Mount Nemrut, Adiyaman, Turkey
The Seats of Nemrud are (literally) seating on Mount Nemrut, a mountain in southeast Turkey standing 2,134 meters high above the ground. The huge figures are the representation of Emperor Antiochus I in the company of different Greek and Iranian gods, placing himself amongst la crème de la crème in what would become his tomb. It is a grandiose site that, no wonder, was elevated as UNESCO heritage site in 1987. Due to depredation and thefts, the heads of the statues are not in place anymore, being fixed in front of the seats. To me, it gives a bit of an eerie, but also suggestive flair to the place.
3 The Monument of an Anonymous Passerby
Location: Wroclaw, Poland
Sculptor: Jerzy Kalina
This monument is located near the super cute old town of Wroclaw – a Polish city about 2h from the German border. Standing on both sides of the Swidnicka Street, the statues bring to life ordinary Polish citizens who, facing martial law (1981), went underground to fight communism. The figures are life sized and kind of blend among the pedestrians who cross the busy street. The statues make a really striking impression on those who are familiar with the History of Poland, and recognize struggle in those faces.
4 The Black Ghost (Juodasis Vaiduoklis)
Location: Klaipeda, Lithuania
Sculptor: Svajunas Jurkus & Sergejus Plotnikovas
The bronze statue of The Black Ghost represents an old city legend and is located in the city center of Klaipeda by the pier and a small bridge. Though the sculpture creates a somber ambiance – it represents a hooded ghost getting out of water after all -, it almost feels like a very nonchalant scene for the way it has been placed there. What many distracted tourists don´t perceive is that the statue is 2.4 meters high and is about half below and half above the walkway. What we can´t see doesn´t mean it is not there….* goosebumps *
5 King Arthur
Location: Cliffs of Tintagel, Cornwall, UK
Sculptor: Rubin Eynon
Worth of a king indeed, the 2.4 meter high bronze statue of King Arthur overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on top of the Cliffs of Tintagel. As if the scenery wasn´t mystic enough, the see-through sculpture is located steps away from Merlin´s cave, another legendary figure of Welsh mythology. Whether you believe in the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table or not, we can all agree that this is a place surrounded by a bewitching atmosphere, which may sharpen one´s curiosity about the folklore…or would it be a silenced truth?
6 The Ghosts of Vezio Castle
Location: Varenna, Lake Como, Italy
Sculptor: Managers of the Castle
My second favorite of this list! The ghost statues are located on the patio of Vezio Castle, a medieval military outpost that served to defend the region. Different from most of the sculptures here listed, the ghosts, forsaken and curved in their rugged whitish old tunics, contrast violently with the bright colorful scenery of Lake Como right below them. The entities are made from paper mâché by the castle managers every year, since the material doesn´t survive weather conditions. It´s almost like the old souls of the castle hang around it peacefully, and though wind and rain may fade them, they will always come back and roam in quiet solitude.
7 Kopakonan – The Seal Woman
Location: Faroe Islands, Denmark
Sculptor: Hans Pauli Olsen
The Kopakonan represents a tragic and probably the most well-known legend of the Faroe Islands. It was believed that seals were former human beings who decided to end their lives in the ocean. They were allowed though to come back to shore once a year to undress of their seal skins and live a night as humans again. The bronze and stainless-steel statue is 2.6 meters high, standing in an imposing way on a rock in the village of Mikladalur. What is remarkable about this statue is not only the seal skin she carries, but her face features, encompassing pain and revenge in this idyllic place that looks both enchanting and menacing with its high cliffs and disturbed sea. This is my favorite statue of the list!
8 Saint Bartholomew
Location: Milan, Italy
Sculptor: Marco d´Agrate
Definitely a sculpture that evokes many different feelings: horror, pain, amazement, agitation, contempt, empathy, disturbance….I felt all of those at once when I looked at it live….and, still, I couldn´t stop looking at it. The statue dates from the 16th century and depicts Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle, who was skinned alive for converting the King of Armenia to Christianity. Ouch…He can be found at the Milan Duomo, wearing his skin as a drape (my body shivers just by writing this!). Despite the abomination Saint Bartholomew was put through, the statue is considered an anatomic marvel.
9 Queen Zenobia
Location: Mediterranean Sea, Lattakia, Syria
Zenobia was queen to the Palmyrene Empire and, taking advantage of the crisis Rome was going through during the so-called Crisis of the Third Century, extended her reign over Rome´s territories. She was allegedly a descendent of Cleopatra, the last ruler of Egypt before it became part of Rome. Fierce as she was, she grabbed Egypt back under her power. At the Blue Beach in Lattakia, Zenobia sits on a throne gazing at the immensity of the Mediterranean Sea. It´s almost like she´s admiring everything that she lost by the hands of Aurelian, the Roman Emperor, who put an end to her reigning days.
10 Break Through from your Mold
Location: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Sculptor: Zenos Frudakis
You don´t have to be a big art fan or expert to understand, at one glance, exactly what sculptor Zenos Frudakis wanted to convey with this. There are many sculptures portraying the idea of freedom around the world, and this one is definitely a favorite of mine among them. After all it is not only about the idea of freedom itself, but the process of breaking free from a pre-conceived shape, idea or norm, and, through this movement, acquiring your own features. It is inspiring, provocative and stimulating.
How about you, do you have a favorite statue that you have visited once or intend to visit one day? Let me know in the comments!