Letter: Additions to obelisk could tell a story

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Years ago, in Toledo, Spain, I saw a beautiful stone Franciscan monastery, the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, which had a surprising detail. On the wall facing the street, cascades of chains and manacles are stapled to the masonry. I was told these are the chains of prisoners who were freed at the end of a war. While the manacles were intended as both a memorial and trophy, their story isn’t simple.

The war expelled Muslims from Spain; the monastery was commissioned by Queen Isabella — and this is the same Isabella who supplied Christopher Columbus with ships and who deported Jews and confiscated their property. I wonder who actually worked to construct the monastery. Those chains piqued my curiosity and led to learning more about a troubled history.

So, here is a suggestion for the Pack Square obelisk. Displaying chains and manacles on the sides of the monument would be a similar thought-provoker. To explain the sight would be to consider our local history of slavery and convict labor.

Another thought: Hand tools used for tunneling, quarrying and masonry, like those probably used by builders of the monument itself, could be displayed on it, too. It might even include a hammer-driven rock drill.

— Michael Garner


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2 thoughts on “Letter: Additions to obelisk could tell a story

  1. Voirdire

    Listen, I agree that re-purposing the monument is the best way forward with it. In fact, I think it would be more than fitting to highlight the sacrifice and injustice suffered by the impressed convict laborers who built the railroad up and thru the Old Fort grade/ gap…. the majority of whom were African-Americans… many of whom lost their lives in this endeavor that so contributed to the growth of Asheville. But, as for: “displaying chains and manacles on the sides of the monument would be a similar thought-provoker. ” ….well, I’m not quite sure tourist dependent Asheville needs exactly that in the middle of Pack Square…. you know what I mean?

  2. confused in Asheville

    I thought this was already decided? Why is it still there? Wasn’t there a vote? Done! The city usually seems scared to do anything about anything. Why change, it’s always been like this? That’s the history of Asheville

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