Tombs of the Great Leaders: A Contemporary Guide

Tombs of the Great Leaders: A Contemporary Guide

Gwendolyn Leick

Language: English

Pages: 330

ISBN: 1780232004

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Since ancient times, tombs and mausolea have been built to ensure that exceptional individuals remain in the collective memory. Memorializing those who have changed the course of history, such sites enable real deeds to become the stuff of legend and consolidate a leader’s repute; but these sites of memory also serve the political needs both of the time and of subsequent regimes. How is politics played out, and history commemorated, in these locations? Why do they become pilgrimage sites? How do these structures convey meaning, and can they safeguard a leader’s immortality, particularly in the context of changing political conditions?

Tombs of the Great Leaders traces the development of the political tomb since the Bronze Age to today, focusing on 20th-century memorials housing communist leaders, from Lenin in Moscow to Mao Zedong in Beijing, to Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, and Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang. It also looks at the attempts by fascist rulers Franco and Mussolini to immortalize their memories. It explores the grand monuments erected for the founders of new nation states, including Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Ziaur Rahman in Dhaka, Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Karachi, and the Sun Yat-sen on Purple Mountain.

Leick shows how these mausoleums and tombs have become sites of pilgrimage, and describes the actual experience of visiting the sites, the responses they elicit and the context in which they are viewed today. This book is a fascinating and revealing study of the self-perpetuation of politicians and leaders, despots and dictators.

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fears of an imminent attack from the outside. High levels of military expenditure and preparedness for war were justified as a necessary means to counter any foreign aggression, but importantly too, to bring about the unification of the peninsula. Kim Il Sung alone was said to guarantee the safeguarding of the revolution and the people, and his personality cult developed into an ‘absolutist personal autocracy’.8³ The relatively good conditions in North Korea during the decades it enjoyed Soviet and

crosses, monoliths and huge monuments, that acquired the connotations as altars dedicated to “divinities” of a new creation.’¹6 Franco propagated the cult of dead martyrs, who, like their medieval predecessors, had given their life to Catholic Spain. Yet they had died fighting not the ‘infidels’ of yore but the ‘red menace’ of communism. Fernando Olmeda speaks of ‘a whiff of necrophilia’ that surrounded the dictatorship of Franco. The Falangist battle cry, after all, had been ¡viva la muerte!

cross was to be placed at the summit of the Risca. He had also planned a monastery and barracks to house guards, a large cruciform lake in the axis of crypt, a cemetery, a pilgrim’s way and chapels for the Stations of the Cross. At this stage it was regarded as a military as well as a religious building. As far as the architectural style was concerned, the Falange insisted that the new monument should respect Spanish tradition, best expressed in the architectural style of Juan de Herrera and Juan

Franco himself referred to this theme in his inauguration speech, as described by his biographer Paul Preston: His speech, about the heroism of ‘our fallen’ in defence of ‘our lives’, was triumphant and vengeful. He gloated over the enemy that had been obliged ‘to bite the dust of defeat’ and showed not the slightest trace of desire to see reconciliation between Spaniards. The controlled press described the inauguration as the culmination of his victory in 1938.²6 In subsequent years, Franco

iii in 1848. The dome and crypt were opened to the public on 14 August 1853 but the emperor’s dislike of the tomb and his desire to bury at least his uncle’s heart at St Denis delayed the final inauguration until 1861. The architect’s task was to insert the tomb within the body of the Baroque church and to create a secondary space for the sarcophagus and a sculptural memorial. Visconti’s solution was to place this in a sunken crypt situated below Mansart’s dome and make it visible through a large

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