There are many busts, statues, pictures, drawings and memorials in the city associated with Jan Hus. Probably the most striking of these is actually invisible for most of the year but if you are in Prague at a certain time of the year and you get good weather then make time to see it. The story of the last days of Jan Hus is told on my Prague City Walking Tour and if you’ve read the Jan Hus post you’ll have a good idea why he is so widely commemorated.
Za Pravdu – For the Truth
There is a word in Czech which is often associated with Jan Hus and it is “Pravda” which means “Truth” or “Za Pravdu” which is “For the Truth”. So seeking “Truth” is basically interpreted as the Czech Reformation and the attempts to reform the 15th Century Roman Catholic Church. Three designer/architects (Adam Jirkal, Martin Papcún and Jerry Koza) prepared a very special exhibit for the 600th anniversary of the death of Jan Hus (July 6th 2015) based on this phrase “Za Pravdu”.
Eight stainless steel plates seem to be randomly scattered on the wall of the Bethlehem Chapel and each has a letter cut into it at a really weird angle. I’ve seen people standing directly underneath it looking for the message but there’s a secret to seeing it and understanding it’s full meaning.
You’ll have seen from the pictures above that it’s not the plates that are important but the light which passes through them and forms a projected letter on the wall so across the road you may see the message “Za Pravdu”.
A Very Clever Secret Message
Using natural sunlight to project letters! Clever eh? but not as clever as WHY the letters are cut at such a weird angle. Between May and July you’ll often just see slithers of letters projected on some days and outside of these months you don’t see anything.
You’ll see there’s a little detail on the bottom plate which says 06 1415 and 07 2015. What it refers to is that the trial of Jan Hus begins in June 1415 (06 1415) and this exhibit was created for the 600th anniversary of his death in July 2015 (07 2015). Specifically, the trial began on June 6th and the execution was on July 6th.
Now, would you believe it and I’m always in awe of the thinking that goes into some art, those two dates are exactly 15 days either side of the summer solstice on June 21st. So what they did was to cut the letters in the stainless steel plates at such a precise angle that only at noon on June 6th and July 6th are the letters that make up “Za Pravdu” shown perfectly i.e. the date for the beginning of the trial and the date of his death. Amazing!
The German Version
The memorial is repeated in the German town of Konstanz (Constans in Czech) but shows the word “Wahrheit” which means “Truth”. It’s located in their Old Town on what is now the Stephanschule (school) but back in the 15th Century it was on the site of a courthouse where Jan Hus was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by being burned at the stake. If you are planning on a visit to Konstanz then search for the “Hussenstein” to find the exact location where Jan Hus died as it has been marked since 1862 with a memorial and the Jan Hus House is in the same street. Picture Credit: Tomás Souček.