Náměstí T. G. Masaryka / T. G. Masaryk Square

(Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.741594N, 13.372141E

Náměstí T. G. Masaryka is a generous public space adjacent to Klatovská Avenue (in the past also called Ferdinandova, Čes. legionářů, Benešova and 1. máje), which constitutes its western edge. It is the first of three spaces intersecting this important city artery heading south from the city centre. At the same time, it is also one of the centres of this part of the Jižní Předměstí / Southern Suburb, which was developed during the second half of the 19th century.

An army storehouse and bakery were located on the square until the end of the 19th century. In 1911, the construction of the Business Academy began in their place as part of a generously planned complex (C1–1530). Hanuš Zápal designed the academy building as a composition of mutually symmetric wings taking up a substantial part of the square’s eastern side. In Zápal’s plans, the centre of the square was complemented by an obelisk, probably with a statue of Marshal Radecký, whose name the square bore until before the first decade of the last century (it was named after Dr Václav Peták in 1911; during Nazi occupation after Radecký again; after 1945 after T. G. Masaryk; and in the years 1951–1989 it was called Dukelské). The first stage of the complex’s construction, during which only the south part was realised, was concluded in the year 1913. The park in the square was probably established in the same period.

In the year 1925, city representatives decided to found a monument to the National Liberation in the square with a statue of the first Czechoslovak president T. G. Masaryk. A competition in 1926 was won by a collective of three authors: the sculptors Karel Kotrba and Jaroslav Hruška and the architect Bohumil Pícha, who entered the competition with two designs. One of them intended to use the obelisk form with figural decoration and a statue of President Masaryk in the foreground, similar to the project of Hanuš Zápal. The other, winning one, whose approximate replica is located in the space nowadays, involved a symmetric composition of a pylon with a statue of President Masaryk to the right and four allegorical figures standing to the left on a wide pedestal with a memorial linden tree in the background. The individual figures symbolise a legionnaire with a rifle (son), the homeland (mother), the young republic (daughter) and the industrial tradition of Pilsen (father blacksmith). There is the inscription: Those who defended the ideals of justice won / 1918–1928 below the group and Grateful Pilsen to the Liberator of the Nation / 1850–1937 below the statue of Masaryk. 

The foundation stone of the monument was laid on the 10th of July 1927, on the tenth anniversary of the Battle of Zborov. The festive unveiling took place on Czech Statehood Day, the 28th of October 1928, exactly ten years after the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic. The second stage of construction didn’t materialise until the years 1929–1931. However, the originally planned school building was replaced by a branch of the National Bank of Czechoslovakia, based on the design by František Šrámek. The third stage followed in the years 1932–1934, when Dr Matouš Mandl School was built to the design of Jaroslav Čada and Vladimír Weingärtner. Despite the lapse in time, the three buildings retained a common appearance. 

During the Nazi occupation, the monument was firstly covered up and later dismantled. The statues survived the war hidden at the Castle of Zbraslav in Prague. Fortunately, the memorial linden tree made it through the war unscathed and the monument was unveiled once again on the 28th of October 1945. Yet it was removed before long, in the year 1953, as an act of revenge by the Communist regime for the demonstration of Pilsen citizens against currency reform. During this incident, the statutes were destroyed by employees of the Škoda Works. A plaque on the building of the present-day Czechoslovak Commercial Bank on the north side of the square has commemorated this demonstration since 1993.

Although attempts to renew the monument appeared as early as in 1968, the opportunity really only arose after the fall of the Communist regime in the year 1989. First, a replica of the T. G. Masaryk statue was brought back to the spot with a changed inscription reading T. G. Masaryk / He deserves credit for our statehood / 1850–1937. Before that, a water tank with a sculpture of seagulls had to be removed, which had been located in the middle of the square since the 1960s. It was replaced by two smaller tanks along the sides of the square. A replica of the allegorical statues was added in the year 1999.



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