Bohemia’s crown jewels to go on display next year

Bohemia’s crown jewels on display from January 17 to January 21 2023

Prague Castle has announced that Bohemia’s crown jewels and the skull of Saint Wenceslas will be displayed to the public in January next year, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Czech Republic. Next year’s exhibition will be all the more special as people will have the chance to view the objects within the spaces of Prague’s Saint Vitus Cathedral for the first time since 1955.

From the left,  the dean of the Metropolitan Chapter at St. Ondřej Pávek,  head of the presidential office Vratislav Mynář and Cardinal Dominik Duka | Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

The crown jewels and the skull of Saint Wenceslas will be on display for five days, from January 17 to January 21, the head of the Office of the President, Vratislav Mynář, announced on Monday. For the first time in nearly seven decades, the viewings will take place in the Cathedral of Saint Vitus, specifically in its transept.

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the symbols of royal Bohemian power will likely have to wait in a queue, not just because public viewings of the crown jewels are rare, but also due to the heightened security measures that are to be put in place for the occasion.

Perhaps the most famous and valuable part of the crown jewels is the Crown of Saint Wenceslas, which was created for the occasion of the coronation of Charles IV as King of Bohemia in 1347. The golden crown is decorated with several precious stones and pearls that Charles collected throughout his life and weighs nearly 2.5 kilograms.

The top of the crown features a golden cross, which bears the words: Hic est spina de corona Domini, suggesting that it contains one of the thorns from the mock crown placed on Jesus’ head, or at least a medieval relic of it.

Charles IV acquired two of these thorns during his reign, and it was originally thought that it was placed within the top of the cross. A closer inspection in 2003 ruled this possibility out. However, an x-ray conducted earlier this year did show that there is a hollow space in the bottom part of the cross, says Dr Petr Kroupa, who is charge of conservation at the Office of the President.

“The x-ray method we used cannot confirm that there is organic matter inside. However, there are no indications, either in archival documents or on the crown’s cross itself that would suggest any subsequent interference. We therefore do not doubt that the thorn is inside.”

The crown jewels also feature the royal orb and sceptre, which were made in the 16th century during the rule of Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg, as well as the coronation mantle that was created a century later for Ferdinand’s grandson. The items are not just exquisite to look at, but were also worn and carried by many important figures in European history, such as Empress Maria Theresa, or Ferdinand II, who was Holy Roman Emperor during the Thirty Years War.

Those who come to see the exhibit will also be able to glance at one of the country’s most holy relics – the skull of Saint Wenceslas, the dean of the metropolitan chapter of Saint Vitus in Prague, Ondřej Pávek, told Czech Radio.

“I don’t expect that the relic will be displayed in the transept together with the crown jewels, but rather in the Chapel of Saint Wenceslas, near his grave.”

Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

The first time that the crown jewels were shown to the public after the fall of the Iron Curtain was in 1993, on the occasion of the establishment of the Czech Republic. Since then, it has become a tradition to exhibit the regalia once every five years. Next year’s display, Prague Castle states, will mark the 30 year anniversary of the modern Czech state.