Karel Schwarzenberg's funeral takes place with state honours in St. Vitus Cathedral

Tomáš Halík

The official funeral mass for Karel Schwarzenberg took place with state honours in St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle on Saturday afternoon. The roughly two-hour ceremony, which began at noon, was attended by hundreds of guests from the worlds of politics, culture, and the nobility.

Petr Pavel with his wife | Photo: Ondřej Deml,  ČTK

Mr. Schwarzenberg's funeral mass was officiated by Prague Archbishop Jan Graubner, with a sermon delivered by Catholic priest and theologian Tomáš Halík. Czech President Petr Pavel gave a short eulogy, in which he said that Czechia had lost a great figure of modern history and that he would be sorely missed.

"He loved his homeland and of all the paths he could have taken, he chose the path of service to the Czech Republic. Even when he couldn't live here, he supported this country," the president said, referring to the more than four decades during Communist rule that Schwarzenberg lived in exile with his family in Austria.

He called the former Czech foreign minister an exceptional politician and skilful diplomat who gave the Czech Republic a good name abroad, from which the country is still benefiting.

Grand Duke Henry of Luxembourg,  Prince Albert of Monaco and Prince Alois of Liechtenstein | Photo: Roman Vondrouš,  ČTK

The funeral service, which was invite-only, was attended by hundreds of guests. In addition to family, friends and colleagues of the deceased, many leading Czech and foreign politicians, diplomats and aristocrats were present. As well as the current and former Czech presidents, the ceremony was also attended by Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová. Three members of the European nobility attended: Prince Albert of Monaco, Grand Duke Henry of Luxembourg and Prince Alois of Liechtenstein. The British Royal Family was represented by Ambassador Matt Field.

Jan Nepomuk Schwarzenberg and Therese Schwarzenberg | Photo: René Volfík,  iROZHLAS.cz

Hundreds of members of the public watched the ceremony on a large screen outside the Castle grounds, and the funeral was also broadcast live on television by all the major domestic stations.

Photo: Roman Vondrouš,  ČTK

The funeral was organised according to the wishes of the late statesman. Music played at the ceremony included the Czechoslovak national anthem, the folk song Ach synku, synku, and the St. Wenceslas Chorale. The coffin was draped in the blue-and-white flag of the House of Schwarzenberg and the family coat of arms was displayed in front of the altar.

Schwarzenberg's nephew, Ferdinand, gave a reading from the Gospel and his son Johannes thanked the gathered congregation at the end of the ceremony.

Photo: Ondřej Deml,  ČTK

After the service, the coffin was carried out of the church by members of the Castle Guard to the sound of a choir singing the Czech Christmas carol Narodil se Kristus Pán (Christ the Lord was born). St. Vitus Cathedral's Zikmund bell was struck 34 times, as a symbol of the 34 years that the Czech Republic has been a free and democratic country.

The hearse carrying Schwarzenberg's coffin then left, accompanied by applause from onlookers, for Orlík Castle in South Bohemia, the seat of the Schwarzenberg family, where the late politician is being buried in the family tomb in a private ceremony for family and friends.

Photo: Ondřej Deml,  ČTK
Author: Anna Fodor | Source: ČTK