Highly valuable artefacts relating to Czech statehood now on show

Photo: CTK

The first part of a major exhibition marking the centenary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia has got underway at Prague Castle. It offers a rare, if brief, opportunity to see extremely valuable artefacts considered the very foundations of Czech statehood.

Golden Bull of Sicily,  photo: CTK
The Imperial Stables at Prague Castle are currently home to the first part of an ambitious progamme of exhibitions under the banner Founded 1918 marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia.

Entitled In the Foundations of the State, the freshly opened exhibition offers a variety of materials dating from the the millennium before last to recent times.

These include the Golden Bull of Sicily, a decree confirming Přemysl I’s royal title; the funeral insignia of King Přemysl Otakar II; the Letter of Majesty under which Rudolf II granted religious tolerance to Catholics and Protestants in Bohemia; and the 1918 Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence, also known as the Washington Declaration.

Some of the earliest items on display come from a nobleman’s tomb from the second half of the 9th century, says historian Petr Kroupa.

Photo: CTK
“It was actually found by chance, in Kolín. Some workers dug up a tomb that they didn’t know was there. Because there was a chalice in the tomb it was assumed that it belonged to a Hussite general, specifically Prokop the Bald. But later it was discovered that it was actually far older and was from the ninth century. And the chalice was the oldest single item – it may be from even the end of the eighth century.”

Among a number of manuscripts on display at the Imperial Stables is a document called the Dražice Codex. Archivist Lenka Kluková:

“The Dražice Codex was written by Jan IV of Dražice and dates from 1343. It contains the Kosmas Chronicle and on a double-sided page illustrates the Přemysl dynasty legend of Přemysl the Ploughman being made a duke.”

However, visitors will need to get their skates on if they want to see In the Foundations of the State as it is only running until Monday.

Silver tiara from 12th century,  photo: CTK
Next week will see another very brief exhibition, entitled The Symbolic Power of the Czech Crown Jewels. It is taking place in another part of the Prague Castle complex, the Vladislav Hall.

The final part of Founded 1918 will be open for considerably longer, from February 27 to the end of June. Through the Labyrinth of the History of the Czech Lands is also at the Imperial Stables.

Its centrepiece will be the Vladislav Privilege of 1158, described as the oldest preserved document proving the existence of the Czech state.