Protecting the Sphinx

Protecting the Sphinx

Sphinx on the railing of the entrance bridge to castle in Náměšť nad Oslavou

August’s changing astrological season from Leo* to Virgo** calls up images of fearless lions, harvest goddesses and a combination of the two – the mythical sphinx.

The sphinx was an ancient Egyptian invention with a lion’s body and male head – human or animal. They usually sported a headdress as worn by Pharaohs. Powerful symbols, the lion and monarch represented strength and courage. The lions were considered supreme guardians and sometimes accompanied kings into battle.

Sphinxes in Egypt were built along walkways leading to temple complexes. Like the Great Sphinx of Giza guarded the Egyptian pyramids, two aging majestic sphinxes on the bridge railing guard the entrance to the renaissance castle in Náměšť nad Oslavou, Charles’s boyhood Czechoslovakian hometown during World War II.

The castle (which still stands today) was built on the rocky part of the left bank of the Oslava River between 1565 and 1578 by the Moravian family of Žerotín. The sphinx enjoyed a major revival in European decorative art during this time period. Like those in ancient Greece, the Náměšť sphinxes have the head and face of a woman.

The sphinxes did not ward off the evil of Nazi Germany occupying the town or Czechoslovakia, but they did protect the castle structure and owners (the Haugwitz family) until the end of World War II when the family was forced to leave and the castle became a summer residence for President Edvard Beneš in 1946 and 1947.

I have enjoyed the sphinxes on trips to Náměšť nad Oslavou with Charles from 1997-2006 and on trips after his death. They have captured my imagination and affection!

The last time I saw them in 2015, I was concerned for their welfare as they were showing signs of great deterioration due to age and weathering. How delighted I was to recently locate an article on the Internet describing a project to restore the sculptures through 2019.  “The main activity of the project is the restoration of the sculptural decoration of the entrance bridge, which leads to the chateau in Náměšť nad Oslavou. The aim is the restoration process aimed at the treatment and preservation of the material essence of the monument. The cleansing, consolidation and conservation processes will be emphasized. In the end, the stone surface will be conserved and hydrophobized, the restored work will be presented in the expression of natural stone with a naturally preserved patina of old age.”

I am most grateful that the stewards of these great sphinxes are maintaining and protecting them to ensure that these sculptures inspire and protect everyone for generations to come!

* July 23 – August 22

** August 23 – September 22

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