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Monument Als Herois De 1811

Julio Antonio and the Monument to the Heroes of Tarragona

On 24th December 1909, Tarragona city council agreed to build a monument in memory of the city’s defenders against General Suchet’s siege in 1811.

The idea came from the first count of Rius, Marià Rius i Montaner, who gave the sum of 11,000 pesetas for the initiative, while the city council gave the remaining 14,000 pesetas.

On 11th April 1910 the council organised a restricted competition to design the monument, inviting Carles Mani, Anselm Nogués and Julio Antonio.

The jury consisted of the sculptors Josep Llimona and Miquel Oslé, the senior teacher of drawing at the Tarragona high school, Francisco de Cidón, and the historian Emili Morera.

On 9th April 1911 the winner’s name was released. It was Julio Antonio, with the second project.

Julio Antonio wrote in his decription of the project: ...avoiding all the awful monuments to the heroes of independence which are inaugurated in a fleeting manner, the composition of which is full of guns, helments, swords, cannons and unlikely figures in terrible taste… as a sculptor I have felt and feel that I should convey the sensation of heroism by means of the most attractive, harmonious nude form my intelligence and strength can manage.

Once the final model in bronze had been completed, Tarragona city council asked Ramón de Valle Inclán and Julio Romero de Torres, professors of aesthetics and clothing respectively at the Madrid senior school of fine art, for an opinion on the sculpted group. They assessed it “as a work which, due to its artistic sense, emotional force and unsurpassable technique, may be considered as the highest representation of contemporary art.”

With the celebration of the centenary of the siege of Tarragona imminent, the first stone of the monument was laid on 23rd September 1910. In May 1911 the plinth and the garden around the work were completed on its site on the Rambla de San Juan, at the junction with the Calles Añellas and the Calle Yxart. However, the pulmonary illness affecting Julio Antonio delayed the finishing of the monument.

Moreover, difficulties in obtaining the bronze from the foundry meant that Julio Antonio never saw his work completed, as he died on 15th February 1919.

Finally, in 1920, Tarragona city council delegated responsibility for supervising casting at the Madrid firm of Mir y Ferrero to Enrique Lorenzo Salazar, a disciple of Julio Antonio.

On 9th February 1922, the monument went on display at the Madrid museum of modern art, inaugurated by the minister for public education, and was subsequently shipped to Tarragona. 

After the success it achieved in Madrid, the position of a group of citizens who questioned the siting of the sculpture on the Rambla in Tarragona is hard to understand. The arguments they used were as follows:

- First of all, it might detract from the views and perspective of the Rambla.

- Secondly, the public display of a sculpted group of nude figures might offend passers-by.

The controversy was reflected in opinions for and against which appeared in the newspapers Diario de Tarragona and La Cruz.

In the end the monument was placed in the Tarragona archaeological museum, then located in the Plaça de la Font in the city centre

Nevertheless, a group of citizens continued to petition the mayor of Tarragona for the monument to be covered with a cloth, and a popular song to the tune of “Ai mare” went around by word of mouth, speaking ironically about the situation: The despicable women showed the mayor who’s boss and told Senyor Segura to cover that monument. 

The arrival of the Republic in 1931 led to the final placing of the monument on the site originally planned for it, and on 24th September it was officially inaugurated in the presence of the local authorities and the mother and other relatives of Julio Antonio.


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