Sculpture of Saint Vojtěch, fellow saints, installed in St. Vitus Cathedral

Photo: CTK

Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral has gotten a new group of statues depicting the saints Vojtěch, Radim and Radla. The idea for the statues goes all the way back to 1936. In 1947, a plaster version was installed. But the work was removed a year later when the Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia.

Photo: CTK
The work installed at St. Vitus Cathedral is closely connected to Cardinal Josef Beran when he was the archbishop of Prague. Depicting Saint Vojtěch and fellow saints, is to be unveiled in a special ceremony on Thursday a day before the cardinal’s remains are to be returned from the Vatican, where he was buried in the crypt of St Peter's Basilica.

The statue of the saints is not plaster this time but cast in silver, rare for a statue of this kind which would usually be cast in bronze. The work was cast in two pieces and transported to Prague on Tuesday.

In all, the statues weigh 320 kilos.

The cast in silver was done from a wax copy of the design, artistic caster Pavel Horák explains.

“To cast something like this in silver is very unusual, I looked into it and I don’t think there is anything like it not only in Europe but the world. Nobody did anything like this.”

The statue, in more than 20 parts, was then sent to an artistic works in Buštěhrad, where its employees worked on it for two months. Ivan Houska is the owner of a local firm there which specialises in restoration work.

“They sent a pile of silver casts, dirty, unpolished, and unrefined. We had to chisel away parts and then weld all of it together.”

The original plaster model was created by Karel Vobíšek but removed by the Communists in 1948. The Prague Archbishopric began planning the commission for the sculptures to be recast and returned in 2010. The bishopric paid roughly six million crowns for the work.

Cardinal Josef Beran,  photo: Czech Television
Originally, the statues were to be installed in Saint Vitus’ Cathedral only this autumn, but in the end sped up the process to coincide with the return to Prague of Cardinal Beran’s remains later this week.

The Cardinal’s remains will be flown to the Czech Republic on Friday and will be buried in Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral, the final resting place of kings and cardinals, the next day.

This is in accordance with the cardinal’s last wishes.

Cardinal Josef Beran, a symbol of resistance to the communist regime, was exiled to Rome in 1965, where he died four years later. He was buried in Rome because the communist authorities did not approve the return of his body to his homeland.