Catholic Church, Prague Castle administration discuss handing over of St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral

As we reported last month, the Supreme Court cancelled all previous rulings by lower courts that ordered the Czech state to hand over Prague's St Vitus Cathedral to the Roman Catholic Church. The administration of Prague Castle is now claiming the monument back. On Tuesday, the representatives of both parties met to discuss further steps.

St Vitus Cathedral
The legal battle between the state and the Catholic Church over whom St Vitus Cathedral belongs to has been going on for some fourteen years. The ruling of the Supreme Court implies the monument is to be returned to the state without delay. Tuesday's meeting of church representatives and the Prague Castle administration - which previously managed the cathedral - produced no tangible results and talks will continue in the coming days. The Catholic Church argues that the matter is complicated for example by the fact that the furnishings belong to the church. Prague Bishop Vaclav Maly.

Bishop Vaclav Maly
"There is also the cleaning of the cathedral, maintenance, the guided tours, the cost of the utilities. Then there are the furnishings: who will finance the restoration and maintenance of the monuments inside. These are very complex matters and it is necessary that everything be covered with proper contracts and agreements. On Friday the talks will continue and we will discuss the daily regime in the cathedral. We need to discuss all possibilities and options."

The dispute between the Church and the state has been going on since the early 1990s. While lower courts ruled that the Catholic Church never lost its ownership rights to the Cathedral and the communist government merely oversaw the church's administration, the Supreme Court has now ruled otherwise. Built by heads of state to serve God - it is taking years to determine who the cathedral belongs to. Historian Dusan Trestik, an expert on Czech medieval history, says it is all more complex.

"The whole absurdity of this never ending legal battle is that the cathedral including the furnishings does not belong to anyone. It belongs to itself. When Emperor Charles IV built the cathedral and presented it to the archbishopric, it was technically a loan under medieval law. Yet the monarch kept his ownership. But the other party was also an owner. This has never changed. The ownership of the cathedral is still hanging in the medieval state and should not be examined by a civil court."

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is still charging a hundred-crown entrance fee from the visitors, even thought the Prague Castle administration disagrees with it. They say they will abolish the fee once the cathedral is handed over.