Prague Marian Column
If you did my Old Town Walking Tour up to February 2020 then you’ll know that in the early part of the tour I show the Prague Meridian line on the Old Town Square and then say, and I quote “before I tell you about the meridian I have to tell you what used to be at the end of it, the Prague Marian Column”. Now I don’t have to describe it because in 2020 it was rebuilt. If you search the internet you’ll find many places that have a Marian Column.
It was probably my second year in Prague (@1998) on a November morning that I noticed the stone plaque in the ground. I only noticed it because somebody had positioned a polystyrene broken column next to it. It also showed an original picture and a date November 3rd 1918. I knew the Czech Independence Day was October 28th. There must be a connection I thought.
So then you work out the story goes back to 1650. The siege of Prague by the Swedish had been defeated two years earlier and the Thirty Years War had ended. The Habsburg Empire was now firmly in charge of the country and they planned to build the Prague Marian Column in thanks to the Virgin Mary for their success against the Swedes. If you were Catholic it would be a symbol of peace. If you were not Catholic then it was interpreted as a big “WE WON!” on the Old Town Square. The foundation stone was laid in 1650, it took two years to build and Czechs call it the Mariansky Sloup.
And there it stood until 1918. World War One was almost over, the Austro-Hungarian Empire about to be split up into sovereign countries including Czechoslovakia on October 28th. A week later and a team of firemen, part of a crowd of hundreds of people, climbed up the column, attached ropes to it and the whole thing was torn down. You can see the similarity with the model.
I get the impression that there was a timing issue and that this event was not supposed to happen until the following week. November 8th, the anniversary of the Battle of White Mountain (see the 1621 Memorial post) where the Catholics defeated the Protestants was supposed to have been commemorated with a march ending on the Old Town Square and the subsequent destruction of the Prague Marian Column. I guess somebody was a bit too eager.
1990 saw the official creation of the “Society for the Restoral of the Marian Column on the Old Town Square” (very specific name don’t you think?) and a stone plaque was put into the ground. It had text which translated as “On this place the Marian Column will return”. Somebody objected because one night a bottle of acid was poured over that text.
In 1997 the first stonemasons were hired and construction began on parts of the structure. The statue of the Virgin Mary was completed in 2001. In 2008 things began to happen. It was clear that some people wanted the Marian Column back in place by November 3rd 2018 i.e. the Centenary of the destruction. But it never happened. Although Petr Vana had been commissioned for the project (4 others also worked on it) and a replica of the Marian Column was built, the city did not give permission for installation. In 2015 a sub-ground survey mapped the existing foundation area. In 2017 the Prague Building Authority said it had no objection to the Prague Marian Column being reinstalled in it’s original dimensions and in its original position. They issued a building permit valid until May 2019. This prompted a petition being raised and signed by more than 1000 people but the city still did not give permission. In 2019 parts of the column i.e. the plinth and the Virgin Mary, sat on a barge moored on the river less than 600 metres from the Old Town Square pictured above. That same year the Virgin Mary statue was moved to a place on church land behind the Tyn Church on the Old Town Square.
Twice in 2019 I personally witnessed attempts to dig up the Old Town Square to lay the plinth and twice the police stepped in to stop it. It turns out that they had permission to rebuild the Prague Marian Column but NOT permission for parking heavy machinery on the square. Then in January 2020 finally the permission was given by the city, a schedule of construction began in February 2020 and the grand opening was scheduled for August 2020 but it has been delayed because the angels on the corners of the Marian Column have still not been installed.