Document creating Kings of Bohemia goes on show in Prague

Golden Bull of Sicily, photo: ČTK/Krumphanzl Michal

The Golden Bull of Sicily, one of the founding documents of the mediaeval Czech state, has gone on display at Prague Castle. The valuable artefact, which is only rarely accessible to the public, is part of a major exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia.

Golden Bull of Sicily, photo: ČTK/Krumphanzl Michal
Zlatá Bula Sicilská or the Golden Bull of Sicily, a decree issued by Roman Emperor Frederick II in Basel in 1212, confirmed the kingship of Ottokar I and declared him and his heirs Kings of Bohemia. The document is now to be showcased at the Imperial Stables at Prague Castle as part of an exhibition entitled Through the Labyrinth of the History of the Czech Lands.

Emilie Benešová from the National Archive in Prague explains the importance of the document, which is considered one of the very foundations of Czech statehood:

“The Golden Bull of Sicily is something like a Holy Grail of the Czech nation. It establishes the hereditary title of the Kings of Bohemia. The King of Bohemia was no longer subject to appointment by the Emperor and didn’t have to pay any tributes. In other words, he became a sovereign ruler.”

The Golden Bull of Sicily bears a gilded metal seal and is actually three separate decrees. Today, it is stored under special conditions and it is exhibited only on exceptional occasions and for a very limited period of time, in this case it is 26 days:

“These oldest remaining documents related to the foundation of Czech statehood are stored in a special safe at the National Archive which secures a stable temperature and humidity to prevent their disintegration.

Golden Bull of Charles IV
“At the time when they were issued, they were part of the King’s treasure and they accompanied him on his journeys. They were also hidden at various castles, such as Karlštejn, or at St Vitus cathedral.”

Through the Labyrinth of the History of the Czech Lands is the last part of a major exhibition which has gradually displayed a variety of objects related to Czech statehood dating from the millennium before last to recent times.

They included for instance the funeral insignia of King Přemysl Otakar II or the Letter of Majesty under which Rudolph II granted religious tolerance to Catholics and Protestants in Bohemia.

Emilie Benešová highlights some other artefacts that are currently on show at Prague Castle:

“There are another two decrees bearing the golden seal of Emperor Charles IV, which confirm the privileges established by the Golden Bull of Sicily. There is also the Maiestas Carolina, a legal code proposed by Charles IV to govern Bohemia.

The exhibition Through the Labyrinth of the History of the Czech Lands will run at the Imperial Stables until the end of June.

“Visitors can also see the concept of the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence, also known as the Washington Declaration, written by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk in Washington in 1918. And there is also a sealed envelope with Masaryk’s last words, which can only be opened in 2025.”