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A Memorable Place

Pondering life amid Oslo sculptures

By Marge Stickevers


Of all the sights I saw in Scandinavia, the Monolith at Gustav Vigeland's Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway, most intrigued me.

From a single block of granite more than 46 feet high, human figures rise in a spiral. It took three stone carvers from 1929 to 1943, working daily, to finish the sculpture, just before Vigeland, the artist who designed it, died. The Monolith is the culmination of monuments that Vigeland created and dedicated to the life cycle of man.

Vigeland negotiated an agreement with Oslo to display his work, which he donated to the city. As a result, today Vigeland Park comprises 80 acres with 192 sculptures and a museum.

The park's main entrance consists of five large gates with exotic designs of human figures and lizards. From the entrance, paths lead to a bridge surrounded by granite groups of humans and reptiles. Figures in repose alternate with energetic figures. It is vitality that is depicted.

Throughout the park, the life cycle of man weaves its story. Beyond the bridge, the path continues through a rose garden to a fountain. In the center, six giants hold a vessel aloft. The giants, representing different ages, toil with the burden of life.

Themes of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age and death are repeated in the 60 bronze statues on the parapet beneath. The transition from death to new life is shown.

From the fountain, the path continues upward to the Monolith, reached by stairs. The figures on the column depict the quest, the trials and errors, the frailties and triumphs, and the final demise of mankind. Vigeland, the son of a carpenter, wanted the Monolith to raise questions. Did it represent man's yearning for spirituality, the transcendence of everyday living, or cyclic repetition?

Vigeland Park left its mark on me. The mortality of man is a universal theme, which makes the place a theme park of the highest order.

Marge Stickevers lives in Berlin, Md.

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Barbara J. Park, Joppa

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My husband and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary in Bucks County, Pa., with a ride on the New Hope & Ivyland Rail Road. Steam engines evoke nostalgia in adults, but children, who have seen such trains only in books, come alive with wonder. The conductor on our excursion was busy getting passengers off and readying for the next trip, but he was not too busy to speak to an excited child whose question he answered by replying, "Sure you can, son!"

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* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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