Prague Castle exhibition introduces leading Czech poet of late medieval era

Bohuslav Hasistejnsky of Lobkovice

A new exhibition opening at Prague Castle on Wednesday bears the intriguing title Rozhovor se smrti - Interview with Death. It focuses on the life and works of the great late medieval Czech poet and intellectual Bohuslav Hasistejnsky of Lobkovice, but also aims to portray the age he lived in.

Bohuslav Hasistejnsky of Lobkovice
Bohuslav Hasistejnsky of Lobkovice was at one time the prior of Prague's Vysehrad parish but, after an unsuccessful career in the church, settled at his own Hasistejn Castle in 1503. There the nobleman devoted himself to poetry (in Latin - he apparently regarded the Czech language as barbaric), and the building of one of the largest private libraries in Europe. Ivana Kyzourova is the curator of the new exhibition.

"His library featuring around 650 works has been preserved and is still held by his family, the Lobkovices. It contains unique printed materials and manuscripts. Alongside it in the exhibition are other works which are either directly or indirectly connected with Hasistejnsky. These include unique pieces, such as a bust from around 1500 that was dedicated to King Vladislav II of Jagellon and an etching by Albrecht Durer."

It also features works by other artists of that era. Speaking of which, the curator says the poet lived on the cusp of a new age - and this is reflected in the show.

"This exhibition presents an era when the Middle Ages were coming to a close in central Europe around 1500. But there is also a whiff of the Italian Renaissance, and I think that polarity gives the exhibition another dimension."

Ivana Kyzourova says most people learn about Bohuslav Hasistejnsky of Lobkovice at school - and then promptly forget him. She is hoping Czechs learn to appreciate the poet anew.

"His works aren't dusty old manuscripts that a contemporary reader would find boring. On the contrary. We find in his work many passages which are very modern, very contemporary. You could get the impression they had been written today or yesterday."

Interview with Death: Bohuslav Hasistejnsky of Lobkovice - poet of the Age of the Jagellons runs at the Riding School at Prague Castle until July 1.