After almost a month in which the monument to the independence fighter Simón Bolívar has been at the epicenter of social protest, and one that has besieged the Colombian capital, on Monday, Bogotá’s Institute of Cultural Patrimony (IDPC), released the equestrian Liberator from his pedestal. Bolívar graced the south wall of Los Héroes monument as thousands of students and anti-government demonstrators filled streets and bridges of this heavily-transited city intersection.
The decision to transfer the bronze sculpture created by Parisian Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910), most famously known for his golden Jeanne d’Arc in Place des Pyramides, was based on security concerns that the 3-ton horse and rider could topple during future protests.
Vandals set fire to tires beneath the statue at the end of the national strike day on May 19 further weakening the iron and stone of a tower that was designed by the Italian architects Angiolo Mazzoni and Ludovico Consorti, both ardent supporters of Mussolini’s fascist regime. As the appointed state architect of “Il Duce,” Mazzoni designed many of the railway stations that operate across the peninsula, among them Siena, Trento, Reggio Emilia, Bolzano, Venezia Santa Lucia, Messina, and Roma Termini. When Mussolini’s regime collapsed at end of World War II in Europe, Mazzoni exiled himself in Bogotá, where he lived until 1963.
The toppling of several monuments across Colombia during the national strike, including two representing conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar (Cali and Popayan), Antonio Nariño (Pasto), Francisco Paula de Santander (Popayán) and Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (Bogotá), sealed the fate of a landmark that has stood at the crossroads of Calle 80 since 1963. The monument also commemorates the battalions that participated in the independence battles of Boyacá, Carabobo, Bomboná, Junín, Pichincha, and Ayacucho. On the Eastern face of the 57-meter high tower, there is also a reference to the British Legion who fought alongside cavalry, fusiliers, and rangers in the battle of Boyacá on August 7, 1918, liberating New Granada (Colombia) from Spain.
The Ministry of Culture will preserve Frémiet’s masterpiece until the Liberator is reinaugurated in Bogotá’s Parque de la Independencia.