Memorial event puts Prague’s toppled Marian Column back in spotlight

Statue of the Virgin Mary in Exile, photo: Zdeňka Kuchyňová

An event at the Strahov Monastery took place on Tuesday to celebrate the statue of the Virgin Mary in Exile, which was placed in its garden exactly 25 years ago. The statue, which previously stood in the Czech Benedictine College in Lisle, near Chicago, was commissioned by Czechoslovak expats in the US in the 1950s and became a symbolical connection to their homeland.

Statue of the Virgin Mary in Exile,  photo: Zdeňka Kuchyňová
The statue of the Virgin Mary in Exile was inspired by a statue from the Marian Column, which was erected on the Old Town Square in Prague in 1652 to commemorate the Habsburg victory over the Swedes at the end of the Thirty Years’ War.

It was toppled by an angry mob in 1918 which considered the monument to be anti-Czech. The golden-plated statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the column, was broken during the demolition.

In the 1950s, Czech Catholic expats in the United States, wanting to forge a link with their homeland, collected money to commission a Virgin Mary statue inspired by the original one in Prague, made by Jan Jiří Bendl.

Speaking at the event on Tuesday, parliament deputy Tomáš Czernin explained the significance of the statue:

Marian Column on Old Town Square,  photo: Public Domain
“This is the Virgin Mary from Exile, a symbol of Czechoslovak expats’ desire to return home under her protection. It is said that when she returns to the Old Town Square, all will be good in this country.

“I hope and pray that all of us who feel home in the Czech Republic will be able to come back here to visit or to stay for good and that we will always be welcome.”

The marble statue was made in Rome in 1955 by the pope’s sculptor Alessandro Monteleone. After it was consecrated it was brought to the United States and placed at the Czech Benedictine College in Lisle, Illionois.

Michael Josef Pojezdný is a former abbot of the Strahov Monastery:

“The Czechoslovak emigres would pray at the statue of the Virgin Mary to protect the country against Communism just like she protected Prague in 1648 against the Swedes.

“They also decided that when Czechoslovakia was free again, the statue would return back to the country. They wanted to place it on the Old Town Square, which wasn’t possible, so they approached me if it could stand in our garden.”

Michael Josef Pojezdný  (right),  photo: Klára Stejskalová
On May 7, 1994, the statue was erected at the Strahov Monastery and was consecrated by Prague archbishop Miloslav Vlk. Since then, regular processions take place here every first Saturday of the month.

The remains of the original Marian Column, made by sculptor Jan Jiří Bendl, can be seen at the Lapidarium of the National Museum in Prague. A replica of the statue of the Virgin Mary by sculptor Petr Váňa now stands on a provisional column by the south entrance to the Týn Church on the Old Town Square.