Exhibition seeks to make Bohemia’s “locked up” crown jewels more accessible

Czech crown jewels that you can reach

Fans of history and jewellery may appreciate the exhibition “Czech crown jewels that you can reach” (České Korunovační klenoty na dosah), which is opening at Sychrov Castle in Northern Bohemia this Wednesday. The traveling exhibition features exquisite replicas of the Bohemian Crown Jewels made by some of the country’s leading jewellers, as well as several other ceremonial items that were in the possession of Bohemian rulers throughout the centuries.

Crown jewels that you can reach has been traveling the Czech Republic for five years now. Its organiser, Petr Lukas, says that it was the inaccessibility of the real crown jewels that got him thinking about creating a more visitor-friendly alternative.

Petr Lukas  (on the left) | Photo: Milan Baják,  Czech Radio

“Every Czech should see the crown jewels at least once in their lives. Unfortunately, unlike in other European states, these are locked up in the Crown Chamber of the Cathedral of Saint Vitus at Prague Castle. They only get shown to the public on rare occasions, once every five years or more and this is accompanied by huge queues.

“This all means that most people only see the crown jewels on photographs, whether it be on the internet or in school textbooks. And that is why we got the idea to create perfect replicas of these state regalia, so that people can see and learn about both their history and the process through which they were made. “

Jiří Urban | Photo: Ondřej Mikulášek,  České korunovační klenoty na dosah

The replicas were created by Jiří Urban, an expert in royal and imperial crown replicas, who has created jewellery for the likes of the British Queen and Pope John Paul II. Throughout the years, he has gradually been adding more replica pieces to the exhibition. For example, Urban crafted replicas of the original gothic-era orb and sceptre that would have been used by rulers such as Charles IV.

These provide viewers of the exhibit with a more historical picture of what the original crown jewels would have looked like, as the orb and sceptre that are associated with the Bohemian crown today were only made upon the order of Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand I, in the 16th century. Nevertheless, even this later additions can be viewed in replica form at the exhibition, documenting the artistic evolution of jewellery from the Medieval to the Renaissance period.

Czech crown jewels that you can reach | Photo: Ondřej Mikulášek,  České korunovační klenoty na dosah

Another leading Czech craftsman to have taken part in the project is armourer Patrik Bárta, who created an authentic copy of the Sword of Saint Wenceslas, a ceremonial object that was used during the coronation of the Bohemian king since at least the period of Charles IV.

Czech crown jewels that you can reach | Photo: Ondřej Mikulášek,  České korunovační klenoty na dosah

Aside from items associated with the coronation, Mr Lukas says his team has also collected a wide assortment of other objects that are linked to the history of Bohemia and its rulers.

“We have Hussite-era weapons, as well as replicas of the Golden Fleece, the ceremonial robes of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, or of the Infant Jesus of Prague. The exhibition also contains information about the 22 rulers of Bohemia who wore the Crown of Saint Wenceslas.”

The exhibition will run from June 1 to July 31, after which it will move to South Bohemia and then Moravia.