Litomyšl Faculty of Restoration: a unique educational institution

Rudolf Trucla - student of the Faculty of Restoration, photo: Vít Pohanka

The University of Pardubice offers a unique field of study. Its Faculty of Restoration provides a mix of practical training and theoretical basis for the restoration of old buildings, sculptures, books and other monuments and objects of historical value.

Rudolf Trucla - student of the Faculty of Restoration,  photo: Vít Pohanka

I am standing in a spacious, well-lit workshop. The weather outside is grey and rainy, but there is plenty of light coming through the large windows. Students are working with chisels and hammers on a baroque statue. One of them is Rudolf Trucla:

„I am working on these statues of angels, which might be used on the Konopiště Castle near Prague. We are using clay and later we will make casts and use sand. Currently, I am in my second year here, I was drawn to restoration from a young age. When I was fifteen, I decided to study at a secondary school in Uherské Hradiště in Moravia, which specializes in art and design. Now I am here in Litomyšl.“

And why did you opt for the Litomyšl Faculty of Restoration? Why did you not try the Academy of Arts in Prague that offers a similar program?

Jan Vojtěchovský - vice-dean of the Litomyšl Faculty of Restoration,  photo: Vít Pohanka
„Mainly I wanted to repair statues rather than create new ones. So, right now I have two years of study left in order to get my bachelor’s degree. After that, I am pretty much decided on getting a master’s because I need it to get an “A class” license, with which I can restore a much a wider range of sculptures. Everything from stone to cast work. With an “A class” license, I can also start my own business and be my own boss. Although the most important thing for me is that I enjoy the work. And right now, it looks like there is quite a lot of work in the field of restoration. The monuments always need repairing and upkeep. At the same time, there are not that many people in this field of work. There are certainly fewer restorers than, say business managers.“

And it is precisely this mix of practical training and theoretical education that attracts young people to this small rural town. Jan Vojtěchovský is the vice-dean responsible for international cooperation:

“The philosophy of the faculty is interdisciplinary cooperation. We do not engage only on so-called artistic restoration. Our focus is on natural sciences connected with the process but humanities, as well. We say there are three pillars of our teaching: natural sciences, history of art and technical aspect of the restoration process.”

“We have four restoration studios with four specializations. I am the head of the wall-painting conservation. Then we have stone conservation and related materials, bookbinding and paper conservation, and the fourth is artwork on paper and textile supports.”

Working on a bookbinding,  photo: Vít Pohanka

Experts and students of the faculty have had quite a few opportunities to work on projects both in the Czech Republic and abroad:

“For example, last year the stone conservation studio restored the tomb of a Czech nobleman Arnošt of Pardubice which is in Kladsko in today’s Poland. It was quite an important project because quite probably authors of the tomb were from The Master Petr Parléř workshop.”

Students in Litomyšl - restoring books,  photo: Vít Pohanka
The Petr Parléř workshop, by the way, created some of the most prominent 14th century Gothic masterpieces in the Czech Lands, including a substantial part of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Experts from Litomyšl took part in the restoration of other monuments of world importance. For example, the Charles Bridge in Prague or Saint Barbara’s Church in Kutná Hora:

“Our colleagues were part of the team that evaluated the state of the stone parts of the Charles Bridge. In Kutná Hora, they have been working often. And of course, the Church of Saint Barbara which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site was one of the places of they worked on.”

After meeting Jan Vojtěchovský, vice-dean of the Faculty of Restoration, I speak to one of the students of restoration and conservation of paper, bookbinding, and documents Anna Pátková:

“I have been drawn to creative work ever since I was little, I even attended a high school of art and design. This college in Litomyšl really won me over because it combines traditional manufacturing methods with books and book culture, which I have always been fond of. So, I was glad to find something like that here.”

“I still have two years of college left so I am not too worried about finding work yet. Of course, I have already had an internship at one museum. In most bigger towns there are restoration facilities in galleries, museums, libraries or archives. You can find paper archival material anywhere so there is definitely a demand for paper restoration.”

Obviously, graduates of this faculty of the University of Pardubice do not need to be worried by limited work prospects, on the contrary.

These statues need restoration too,  photo: Vít Pohanka