The National Museum has opened a major new exhibit on St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech lands, who was also one of their earliest and most important rulers. What is particularly significant about this exhibit is that it brings together a collection of the most precious manuscripts and items relating to Saint Wenceslas over the course of roughly 700 years.
“Prince Wenceslas – Saint and Sovereign” was opened on Tuesday by none other than President Václav Klaus in the presence of statesmen and other assorted VIPs. The pomp and circumstance of the occasion showed just how important a collection the National Museum had been able to bring together in honour of the 10th century ruler. Michal Lukeš is the museum’s director.
“The exhibition of Saint Wenceslas is not a big one, but it is all the more unique for the splendid items it consists of: beautifully illuminated, late-medieval manuscripts, the rarest of which is the Life and Suffering of Saint Wenceslas which was purchased and lent to us by the UNIQUA insurance company, and a range of unique exhibits from our collection and that of the Austrian National Library.”
The Life and Suffering of Saint Wenceslas is a magnificent artefact indeed, made in all likelihood for Emperor Rudolf II in the late 16th century but on display in Prague for the first time. The exhibition also has on show a wealth of manuscripts containing illustrations of the early Czech rulers, illuminated in the greatest historical workshops and yet never before seen by the Czech public. They are in many cases special works made primarily as illustrative collectors items in the 16th century. Marta Vaculínová heads the exhibition.
“If we look at the manuscripts on display here showing Saint Václav’s entire life, there are various scenes that we know from legend and for which he was famed: Wenceslas planting grain, harvesting and redeeming children from paganism. But we were also extremely lucky with the items we obtained aside from books, the centre of attention being the reliquary bust of Saint Václav which was made before 1503 and the entrance to the exhibit is guarded by a copy of the statue by Petr Parléř from the Church of Saint Václav.”
These and other ancient items from the hands of the great artisans of medieval Bohemia will be on display at the National museum until May 2.