Alexander the Great and Mother Teresa... Macedonia goes big on its national monuments


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The Independent Online

Not content with four-storey statues of Alexander the Great and Mother Teresa, city planners in Skopje are now inviting bids for a version of Rome’s Spanish Steps, part of a beautification campaign that has divided residents.

The “Skopje 2014” project aims to rejuvenate the Macedonian capital and bring a bit of glamour – and tourists – to a city known for its drab Soviet-era architecture.

So far a 22-metre statue of Alexander the Great and another of his father have gone up in Macedonia Square, and there are plans for an equally huge statue of Mother Teresa. Since 2009 a concert hall, theatre and history museum, all inspired by classical antiquity, have joined dozens of new statues of saints and emperors.

The latest initiative is a grand outdoor staircase in front of a commercial building on Macedonia Square which Skopje residents have dubbed the “Spanish Steps”, the Balkan Insight online news website reported. A computer-generated image showed a neoclassical building with three tiers of circular steps, a design similar to the Spanish Steps, but with more statues. The government has invited bidders to submit proposals by October.

“I can’t wait for the next surprise: Pyramids? Taj Mahal? Potala Palace?” one bemused reader wrote in the comments section of the website.

The Skopje 2014 project has cost an estimated €200m (£170m) so far, leading many to question such extravagance in one of Europe’s poorest countries. “They should have spent some of the money on hospitals,” one resident told the Financial Times this month.