Jan Hus fit to face centuries to come after restoration comeback

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic’s biggest and most famous statue of religious reformer and national hero Jan Hus is back on show in Prague after a painstaking renovation that should see it stand the test of time for generations to come.

Photo: CTK
The monumental statue in Prague’s Old Town Square of Jan Hus towering over Hussite fighters and religious refugees has for some of the last two years been shrouded in scaffolding as the work progressed. A ceremony marking the completion of works took place on Tuesday in the presence of prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka and representatives from the towns of Husinec, Hus’ birthplace, and Tábor, the Czech Hussite stronghold.

The timing is appropriate as the 600th anniversary of Hus’ martyrdom, when he was burned at the stake after being found guilty of heresy in Constance, Germany, occurs on July 6 this year.

Andrej Šumbera was one of those responsible for the restoration. He described to Czech Radio some of the most important work that took place: “The most significant work was the dismantling and reconstruction of some of the individual bronze sections which make up the sculpture. It weighs around 14 tonnes in total and is made up of around 300 sections which are held together with the help of a so called monterky, or connections, which go around the inside of the construction and are held together by around 6,000 screws.”

Many of the original iron screws had rusted away, a fate that should not befall their stainless steel successors. Stainless steel alloys have also been used for other connecting parts meaning that they should be good for hundreds of years to come.

Photo: CTK
And the thick layer of verdigris that developed on parts of the statue over the last 100 years has also been the subject of attention with some of the patina removed and conservation wax applied. The result conserves the impression of ageing but with the monument given a darker, more even, velvety olive-green hue.

The Hus memorial was first conceived way back in 1889 but did not become a reality until around 15 years later. It was paid for by a national collection but unveiled in 1915 in the rather somber circumstances of WW1 without the national celebrations that had originally been intended for the 500th anniversary of Hus’ death.

The statue itself is the work of the Czech Ladislav Šaloun. Because the sheer scale of the monumental sculpture he was working on for around 14 years, Šaloun designed and build a new villa and workshop in Prague which has become an architectural landmark in its own right.

A full scale model of the Hus monument was actually created and installed on the square in 1907 with alterations made afterwards because it was found to be too intrusive.