Emperor Charles IV elected Greatest Czech of all time

Emperor Charles IV, photo: CTK

Charles IV, the 14th-century Holy Roman emperor and King of Bohemia has been making headlines lately. Just days after the news was released about the discovery of his original burial chamber at Prague Castle, Charles IV was elected the Greatest Czech of all time.

Emperor Charles IV,  photo: CTK
Over 68,000 Czechs cast their votes for Emperor Charles IV in the final of the Czech version of the BBC's "Great Britons" poll broadcast on Czech Television. The emperor was followed by the founder of Czechoslovakia, President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk with 55,000 votes. The former Czech President Vaclav Havel came third with 52,000 votes, the only living personality on the shortlist of ten which was released at the beginning of May.

Charles IV, who was born in 1316 in Prague and died here in 1378, was the son of John of Luxembourg and Eliska, the last member of the Bohemian Premyslid dynasty that founded the medieval Kingdom of Bohemia.

The legacy of Charles IV is very tangible in this country. As the monarch's champion in the TV show, architect David Vavra, said "Wherever you look, you can see his footsteps". A pious man and skilled diplomat, Charles IV made Prague the capital of his empire and brought the Czech lands to unprecedented prosperity. During his reign Prague was greatly enlarged, churches and castles were built around Bohemia as well as a stone bridge in Prague which has survived floods and wars. A generous sponsor of learning and the arts, Charles IV founded the first University in central Europe which to this day bears his name. Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral, which dominates the city's skyline, was also founded by him and became his final resting place in 1378.

Of all the countries where the poll has taken place so far, Czechs went the furthest back in history. For example the British public voted Sir Winston Churchill the Greatest Briton of all time, Germany chose its first post-war chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French voters elected General Charles de Gaulle.