Statue of Maria Theresa unveiled in Prague

Photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml

A statue of the 18th century Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa, who was also the only queen of Bohemia, was officially unveiled in Prague on Tuesday. The large minimalist-style statue, which resembles a large bell, stands in a newly-established park bearing the Empress’s name in the vicinity of Prague Castle.

Representatives of Prague 6, who commissioned the statue of Maria Theresa in 2014 for the price of around four million crowns, officially unveiled the memorial on Tuesday morning, exactly 280 years since she ascended the Austro-Hungarian throne.

The 5.5 meter tall figure is made of artificial stone, which was treated with anti-graffiti paint. The statue stands on a pedestal made of lightweight concrete and its inside is made of a special polymerous mixture.

Jan Proksa,  photo: Czech Television

The memorial was created by sculptor Jan Kovářík, together with architect Jan Proksa. The latter explained his role in the project to Radio Prague:

“I was dealing with the technical aspect of the statue, which was one of the biggest challenges of the project. There is an underground parking lot underneath the statue, so we first had to establish the static properties and find out if a statue of such dimensions is viable and under what conditions. The whole construction is light-weight, with a polystyrene centre covered in a sort of stone skin.”

Photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml

Another challenge was the location of the statue itself. The memorial is placed in a small park located between the street Milady Horákové and the bastions of Prague Castle, which is not easily accessible.

“Unfortunately, there are two large exits from the underground garage, which dominate the park in a way. We had to deal with the proportions of the space so that it wouldn’t be dominated by these garage exits. We also had to adjust the dimensions of the statue, so that it wouldn’t be overshadowed.”

Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina, who was born in 1717, was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg.
She started her 40-year reign when her father, Emperor Charles VI, died in October 1740. As queen of Bohemia she left behind a mixed legacy.

Photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml

She declared a number of institutional, financial and educational reforms, setting the cornerstone of compulsory primary school education for all. On the other hand, she did not allow religious plurality and didn’t tolerate any religion aside from Roman Catholicism.

While the Mayor of Prague, Ondřej Kolář, says that the empress, who assumed power under difficult circumstances, deserves a proper memorial in the Czech capital, the project has also raised objections.

Many people said the empress, whose relation to the Czech Lands was far from warm, but rather pragmatic, did not deserve to have a monument.

Others opposed the placement of the statue in a park where World War II resistance leader Václav Morávek died in 1942, arguing that a monument to Nazi resistance would be more suitable for the place.