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Marian Column

Old Town Square, Old Town

Not far from the John Huss Memorial there used to be a monumental Baroque Marian column standing in the Old Town Square until 1918. It was built shortly after the Thirty Years War (in 1650) by the order of king Ferdinand III as thanksgiving to Our Lady the Immaculate Virgin for her help in the war with the Swedes but also as a political symbol of victory of Catholicism over religious freedom; the column was consecrated in the Emperor´s presence on 13th June 1652.

The column was a work by J. J. Bendl and his helpers and it was the second Marian column in Europe (the first one being in Munich). Its height reached almost 14 m and on the top there was a two metres high golden-plated statue of Virgin Mary, in the corners of the stone railings there were four groups of angels fighting with evil forces. The column was also used as timekeeping in Prague: on the Square paving the shadow of the column at midday exactly can be still seen as the so-called Prague Meridian.

Shortly after the independent Czechoslovakia was formed the column was torn down on 3rd November 1918 by a crowd led by a Žižkov bohemian and writer F. Sauer as it was an alleged symbol of the defeat in the Battle at the White Mountain and also of the Habsburg opression. This act of vandalism was rather an intentional deed than just a result of spontaneous mass hysteria, some sources (including photographs) claim that the column was torn down by Žižkov firefighters who were talked into it by Sauer. The torso of the Marian statue and remains of the other sculptures can now be found in the Lapidarium of the National Museum.

In 1990 a Society for restoration of the Marian Column was founded in Prague. Even though the idea to build a replica of the column in the original spot has generated many negative responses, the activists had a stone tablet built into the paving of the Square, saying in four languages Here stood and will stand again the Marian Column; the sensitivity of this issue can be demonstrated by the fact that someone had chipped away the words and will stand again. The staircase, railings, a six metres high column (made from Indian stone which resembles the most to the original sandstone from Kamenné Žehrovice) and a replica of the statue of Virgin Mary by sculptor P. Váňa, have all been made, the statue now standing on a provisional column by the south entrance to the Týn Church. The costs for this projects were supposed to be covered from donations and offerings. Until now, it hasn´t been clear whether the Marian Column will stand again in the Old Town Square.

 

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