Museum of Alchemy perfectly located in medieval town of Kutna Hora
The picturesque medieval town of Kutna Hora, around 70 kilometres east of Prague, was once one of the largest towns in Europe, and was a centre of copper and silver mining. Nowadays, it is extremely popular with tourists, and one of the latest attractions in the town is a museum of alchemy. I recently visited the alchemy museum, which is located in the perfect setting of the Sankturnin Palace, on Kutna Hora's main square.
The first thing you see at the bottom of the winding stone stairs that lead down to the alchemy museum here in Kutna Hora is a large wooden egg with a sword in it, beside a picture of a man with a similar egg. Michal Pober is the director of the museum. Michal - what is this wooden egg?
"What it represents is this picture here, Michael Mayer, from the 17th century, a very important alchemist, part of Rudolf's entourage, he was his doctor. And here he is, just about to smack the egg from above with a sword. So what he's in fact doing is cracking open something that's been taking place in here for a long time, some practical alchemical activity in here."
This I take it is a laboratory.
"This is our reconstructed laboratory, yes. It still needs a little more tuning. This is a very old and large bellows which we were given. It should be spinning a little bit faster over there but we have a number of leaks in this antique item. And then all of this glass and pottery was donated to us and that was the beginning of the possibility to make a museum. It came from Kavalier in Sazava. This last little bit down here was very much an afterthought. The space is absolutely unusable; it goes down into damp and wetness, and this incredibly steep staircase and narrow door. I was brainstorming and suddenly I got this picture of a prison for bad alchemists. And this of course happened. Bad alchemists were ones who were pretending and never had any success at all or they were people who apparently were having success but refused to divulge the secret. This happened to Edward Kelley for example, in Krivoklat."
That dungeon is in the lower part of the museum, in the basement of the Sankturnin Palace. You have to climb a few flights of stairs to reach the upper part of the museum of alchemy. Michal Pober again.
"This space is traditionally known as the chapel, and its a very beautiful, late-Gothic construction. It has a very interesting connection to Hynek Minsterbersky, son of Jiri of Podebrady, who allegedly was an alchemist and allegedly had his laboratory in this tower. And we were able to prove through these documents that were found by one of our colleagues that Hynek definitely was an alchemist. But we weren't able to prove that actually was in the tower. But it's set up as if he was and he just popped out for a couple of minutes."