STONECUTTING AND STONES IN DRAGAČEVO

In Dragačevo, during 18th and 19th centuries were developed many type of crafts, but one of them was particularly well-marked, lapidary craft. Primarily, with a goal to replace old wooden evanescent tombstones.

Masters of this craft, from Dragačevo, made monuments for the whole region of Western Serbia. One of the main reasons for this making is big resource of stone-mines of on territory of Dragačevo. This type of stone is suitable for creating monuments for tombs and writing epitaphs and portrayals.

The best kind of stones is the stone „Tocilaš“ from mine in Živica, village closed to Guča. This stone is suitable for mining, dyeing and carving. Also, this stone is resistant regardless of weather conditions. It can be mined in yellowish, greyish or bluish color. Some families in Dragačevo wielded mines as own property. Nicović and Čikiriz families from village Rti, were the most famous in stonecutting.

„Tocilaš“ stone was very reputable (because of suitability for carving) but there were the others very popular in Serbia, also used for monuments. There were, for example: „Radočel“ marble (from mines in area near to famous monastery Studenica), greyish sandstone (from villages Parmenac and Puhovo also from the Dragačevo region), whitish „Kablarac“ (from Mountain Kablar) „Bukovički“ red stone, purple „Ljutika“ (from Mountain Vujan) and „Konglomerat“ (Mountain Suvobor). But, most of them are colored in inadequate shades, that is why stones from Dragačevo were used more then others.

FORM AND DIMENSIONS OF MONUMENTS

The stones were four-sided ashlar, without lid, with sunken flat surfaces on sides, fitting for carving graphic facts. There are trims, with bends, as imperial doors or iconostasis. With engraved letters, they look like drenched scroll of the paper, as those in hands of rulers on frescos of serbian monasteries.

Villagers used to buy unwritten stones, on fairs in Dragačevo and Ivanjica, then they were transported by carriers to villages with craft workshop, usually to workshop of Čikiriz family. Afterwards the stone was processed as they wished.

The size, trims, epitaphs and decoration depended of wealth of purchaser and reputation of decedent. Some of them are wery modest with basic information, but some are richly frilly with moldings.

Reach families gave more money for monuments rich of the patterns of flowers, leafage and clovers. Above the epitaph, in upper part of stone, were embossed tresses with engraving of grape and vine`s leaves. On some of them is carved pigeon or cross.

The height of the stone is mostly between 140 cm and 170 cm, and the width is from 37cm to 42cm, while the thickness is between 24 cm and 32 cm. Some of them are surpasses 2 meters, such as monument dedicated to young man Petar Živanić, with height of 310 cm, in village Pridvorica, on Jelica mountain.

 

PURCHASERS

During the 19th Century, this craft was developed, particularly under the influence of rich villagers, who took this production as prestige and showing the power of wealth. They were the main costumers in workcraft of Čikiriz family. Villagers, who lived in poverty conditions, and ended their lives in them same circumstances, without opportunity to afford themselves luxurian monument. Only some of them order tombstone, but usually small, simple and made in some modest and cheaper craftshop.

Customers were ordinarily cattlemen and landowners. Officialdom and soldiership were undeveloped in those times. Villagers in the same time were craftmen, traders and farmers. But, during the 19th Century, along with development of country, the society of the village became stratified. Farmers did their work separately from workman in some craftshop.

Proof of that are monuments, found in village Grdovica, made by Radosav Čikiriz, where were carved professions such as teacher, innkeeper, trader…

STONECUTTER RADOSAV ČIKIRIZ

Radosav Čikiriz is the most famous stone-cutter in the 19th Century. He was born in 1823. in family of immigrants from village Trudovo, region Stari Vlah (today Southwest Serbia), which belonged turkish territory. His family was branch of the family Nicović.

It`s paradoxically that when he was passed away no one monumentalized him, even the date of his death wasn`t recorded.

Information about the life of this artist and stonecutter, we found thanks to notes on monuments who belonged to his family and cousins, which were made by his hands. Čikiriz family originates from Radovanović and Krsmanović families. His father and uncle were rebels during the First Serbian Uprising against the Turks.

He wasn`t the only stonecutter in this family, but he was the first who made the family nickname “Čikiriz” known as famous name for this craft. The name “Čikiriz” became the sign of the stonecutting and part of his signature. Radovan used this nickname as own surname whole his life.

What is the meaning of word “Čikiriz”?

The inetersting thing is that the significance of this word isn`t record in any kind of dictionary. Even the poet Branko V. Radičević was searching for the meaning of this word, in vain. The only link are turkish words „Čaki“ – knife and „čakman“ – drill.

Costumers of his opera were traders, serves, presidents of conciliatory courts, builders, tailors, divines, clergy, smiths, soldiers, even pupils.

The most important customer was the Prince Miloš Obrenović, leader of rebel in The Second Serbian Uprising against the Turks. He asked Radovan for making the monument dedicated to father Teodor in the church.

The price for his service shows us the quality of his work and how much he was wanted, as maestro. That price was even 3 times higher then the price for work in other craftshops.

In the 1863. the value of property of 15% citizens in Dragačevo was estimated to 10 dukats, the value of property of 40% citizens in Dragačevo was estimated to 20 dukats. The half of citizens needed to sell whole property for one monument, made by Radovan Čikiriz.

The opus of his work consists of about 600 monuments in 4 middle-sized cemeteries. His working period lasted about 20 years. Before him in this craft, was principle of anonimity. The monuments usually were made without signature. He interrupted this tradition and recorded his works, with name Čikiriz as his sign of recognition. Maybe he noticed necessity of signing or he just wanted to be separated from the others as prominent author. But some his works were unsigned, why he did that, we still haven`t had answer.

Special art theme or the content or style of inscription are often only sign to recognize author of some monument. That is how we know that some of them are made by Čikiriz, without his sign. Miloš Kovačević (village Guberevci, Mountain Jelica), also one very famous author, had similar signature, and misleaded us in research.

We still aren`t sure who is maker of massive cross dediacted to archpriest Janko Mihailović Moler (village Negrišori) or the gravestone of the tomb which belongs to Pavle Bralović commander of county in village Pranjani or marble wall dedicated to Gvozdenija Adžemović mother of the priest in village Zablaće.

Inscriptions and description on the panels of the monuments show us so many information about the lives, mores, habits, wealth, social difference etc from those times. Especially if we pay attention to style of writting and handwritting, we can recognize historical circumstances, spiritual influence and education in one serbian village in the time of fight against turkish army.

Čikiriz was the first writer of scrapbook as lineage of the people. He through work adressed to the people to annunciate destiny of one individual. He convened bevy of readers, even lot of people in those times was illiterate.

 „O my lovely serbian people, where are you going, pull up, wait for a while and read my text here for prudence your in the future“ (village Viča).

„Approach my people to read this everlasting memorial, to see the justice and the truth„ (village Donja Kravarica).

„Approach closer my serbian people, why are you in hurry, stand here to understand who is closed in this dark house and removed from the sunshine (village Guberevci).

Čikiriz is founder of creativity of tomb art and stonecutting. His inscription on these monuments is one kind of biography. This is his way to show us in concise and complete mode, description of one life, through his own mastery.

He interrupted long emptiness of gravestones, which concealed memories of many generations. He is for sure the first writing and sculptural speaker of the historical heritage, spiritual identity of mountain villager who lived between „Stari vlah“ mountains (Javor, Golija and Zlatibor) on the South and moravian low plateau on the North.

The influence of Radovan Čikiriz is apparent from the fact that he modify the way of stonecutting in the famous Studenica school. In the begging of his work he apply the style of this school, but during his work he promote technique in this craft and produce new direction in this skill using plunging sandstone from Dragačevo and his style became recognizable among the other masters of „Radočel“ stone in Dragačevo, Moravica and Pomoravlje.

Unfortunately, it`s unknown where is his tomb, also we don`t know did he have family. Some facts show us that he is passed away in the house of his sister in village Premeća, but without any cognition of circumstences, under which he died.

Ljubomir Čikiriz narrated one story in 1923. about that he was killed. Namely, in the text of monument dedicated to Gajo Bugarčić, Radovan was carved names of thieves and haiduks who killed Gajo. Reportedly, The same robbers after that killed Radovan and seized his ducats.

Prema kazivanju Ljubomira Čikiriza iz 1923. godne, misli se da su ga ubilo hajduci, otimajući dukate zaradjene od klesanja. Možda isti oni koji su iz pušte, kroz pendžer ubili Gaja Bugarčića, iz Lipnice, a čiji je spomenik oslikao i u eptiafu za njegovu smrt okrivio lopove i hajduke.

He exceeded crafts and set the standard of high quality, in this kind of work, with art-strength and estetic postulate. Regarding to him, the crafts in Dragačevo was developed and reached out level of significant quality. That is why Radovan Čikiriz is rated as standard-bearer of this craft and the best stonecutter in Dragačevo and Serbia of all time.

This tekst is taken, in passages, from the book „Kamenorezac Radosav Čikiriz“ authentic masterpiece of serbian literally research, written by Radojko Nikolić, literate and intellectual form village Zeoke in Dragačevo.

ROADSIDE MONUMENTS

Despite tombstones, there is one characteristic kind of monuments so-called „Monuments from the roadside“ made in Dragačevo, in period from the end of the 19th Century to the beginning of the 20th Century, when was kindled fight for liberation of Kingdom of Serbia.

During this fight for liberation (the First and the Second Balcan Wars) and during The First World War, Serbia and Dragačevo as the part of the country) had huge losses, primarily in male population. The most of solders died on the front or during the retreating over the mountains in Albania and Greece. The tombs of this brave young combatants were in the South war away from the home in Serbia.

People in Dragačevo highly appreciates victims in this wars and wanted to record that as testimony for the next generations. They realized their intention in unique way, they put next the main roads monuments as message to all passers-by that someone died for the freedom and bravely fighted in the battle, as reminder for prayer.

On these monuments (made byd sandstones) also were engraved facts from their lives and the circumstences of their death.