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Hrachovina: message to future people thanks to MU scientists

Situated at the newly renovated Mendlovo náměstí, a sculpture titled Hrachovina was unveiled on Tuesday to commemorate Gregor Johann Mendel, the founder of genetics whose legacy is forever tied with Masaryk University.

Unveiling of the Hrachovina sculpture at Mendlovo náměstí.

Last year Masaryk University, along with numerous other institutions, commemorated the 200th anniversary of birth of Gregor Johann Mendel. Its scientists participated in the eponymous project which commenced with the exhumation and study of Mendel’s remains and culminated in the extraction of DNA of the famous scientist. MU also opened a new exhibition at the Mendel Museum and organised a conference with three Nobel Prize laureates in attendance.

The sculpture titled Hrachovina (a reference in Czech to pea plants) was unveiled in front of the abbey and the Mendel Museum at Mendlovo náměstí (Mendel Square). It too celebrates the father of genetics, this time in the form of art. It was commissioned through a public tender that was ultimately awarded to famous sculptor and iron casting artist Jaromír Gargulák. The artwork for CZK 24.5 million was financed from contributions by the City of Brno, the South Moravian Region, as well as a public collection and by individual sponsors. Jaromír Gargulák attended the unveiling ceremony. “Finally, the day has come and I can look at the finished piece. I have to say this has been a tough year as the deadline for the completion of Hrachovina was extremely tight,” Gargulák commented on the last year.

Vice-Rector of Masaryk University Šárka Pospíšilová and author of the sculpture Jaromír Gargulák.

The renovated square is a very appropriate location for the sculpture, just meters away from the abbey. “Just dozens of metres from here Mendel made revolutionary discoveries that changed the world. There is something to be proud of,” said Governor of the South Moravian Region Jan Grolich.

Brno City Mayor Markéta Vaňková believes that the sculpture is a form of investment that the people of Brno will be proud of for a very long time. “Art is supposed to spark interest; it does not have to be spoken of only positively. I was fully aware of the fact as a member of the committee that selected this piece, and as I voted for this very artwork,” Vaňková said during the unveiling.

The unique aspect of the sculpture is its message to future generations in the form of DNA of several notable personalities who played a role in the creation of the statue and the promotion of Mendel’s legacy. “Lyophilized DNA and other biological material, such as hair, was placed in special test tubes enclosed in polystyrene and placed in metal balls representing green peas all over the sculpture. The uppermost sample, somewhere around the gilded part of the artwork, is that of the DNA of Gregor Johann Mendel himself,” said Vice-Rector for Research and Doctoral Studies of Masaryk University Šárka Pospíšilová. The DNA samples were taken, processed and “packed” by scientists from Masaryk University’s CEITEC.

Genetic material prepared to be stored within the sculpture.

Hrachovina is the main feature of the newly renovated Mendlovo náměstí, a major public transportation transfer point whose renovation started in 2021. The renovation included underground utilities, tram and bus stops, street furniture and greenery (including thirty new trees). The result is a very functional space where people can easily wait for their connections and make them without barriers and even spend some quality time.