The Old Town Square is one of the most visited spots in Prague. Tourists from all around the world can find many famous historical sights there. The monumental Jan Hus Memorial, gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn, baroque St. Nicholas Church and the oldest still working astronomical clock in the world are some of the best-known sights in the Czech capital. However, one monument is missing. In 1918, the Marian Column was torn down by the crowd expressing its aversion to the overthrown House of Habsburg and to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire (now broken up into several new states including Czechoslovakia). One hundred years later, there is a chance that it will return to its original place in the Old Town Square.
History of the Marian Column on the Old Town Square
The column on the Old Town Square was erected in 1652 as an expression of thanks to the Virgin Mary for the successful defense of Prague during the Swedish siege of the city during Thirty Years War. For many years, it was the inseparable part of the Old Town Square. However, the symbolism of the column gained the top in the following years – The battle with Protestant Swedes was only a chapter in the long war and it was not motivated by the religious factors. At the beginning, the Bohemia was also Protestant country and in fact, the revolt of Protestant Czech nobility against Catholic King Ferdinand of the House of Habsburg triggered the whole war.
But after the lost Battle of White Mountain in 1620, Czech revolt was broken and Bohemia became Catholic and found itself definitely under the reign of Habsburgs. This remained valid for more than 300 years…
Controversies about column on the Old Town Square
When the Czech national consciousness started to gain in force again, the column started to be understood as a symbol of Habsburg victory over the Czech nobility and country´s subjugate. That is why in 1918, few days after the break up of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire – the latest incarnation of the Habsburg rule over Czech lands – and the formation of Czechoslovakia, the column was destroyed by the crowd. Despite the fact that this act of vandalism was strongly refused by new Czechoslovak President Masaryk, the Czechoslovak National Commission and many others, the column was not restored.
Efforts to return the column in its place have appeared especially after the Velvet revolution. The sculptor Petr Váňa worked on the replica for more than 20 years and finished the work in 2013. Both Prague citizens and historians are still divided over the question of column´s return. But now, it seems that supporters gained some momentum as Prague 1 district decided to allow the monument´s replica to be placed in the Old Town Square. However, there is still some room to file a complaint for the opponents and therefore, we can assume that the process won´t be over anytime soon.