Prague National Gallery collections saved from flooding

04-09-2002

On Tuesday, for the first time since the devastating floods, Prague's National Gallery allowed journalists to see collections of ancient Czech art in St. Agnes convent in the historical centre of Prague. Although the water in the convent came up to a height of 2 metres, the precious 14th century pictures and sculptures were luckily saved. Alena Skodova was there and has this report:

National Gallery after FloodsNational Gallery after Floods Before we entered the convent, we were asked to walk through trays of disinfectant and then we were shown around. The basement has been cleared, as the walls there are still wet. But all the precious collections are where they belong, completely saved.

St. Agnes convent, built in the 13th century, is one of the largest Gothic buildings in Prague. As historical documents show, it has always been located in what is called 'the flood zone', and although there have been numerous floods ever since, the building has always resisted water from the nearby Vltava river. This year's floods, however, damaged the lower part of the convent, and this time the water did not come from the spilled Vltava but from three medieval wells beneath the convent and from the nearby sewage system.

Other buildings belonging to the National Gallery remained untouched, except for the Zbraslav chateau in the outskirts of the city, which houses sculpture collections. National Gallery's director, professor Milan Knizak is breathing a sigh of relief:

"The National Gallery was very lucky because the collections are more or less untouched. Only one space, at Zbraslav castle which was a deposit for sculptures was flooded, but most of the sculptures are in a good condition. All the other places, for instance St. Agnes convent was flooded, but the collections are above, and we have stored all the pieces - the first floor and the basement we've taken out long before the flooding. It means the National Gallery has many damages - on buildings, on technologies, whatever, but the collections are thanks God, saved."

National Gallery's Director Knizak during the FloodsNational Gallery's Director Knizak during the Floods As Mr. Knizak told me, he had already expressed his gratitude to all his employees, because thanks to them the Naional Gallery needed practically no help from outside:

"All the people stayed here, all the important people did not leave the place when the police came, because they wanted to watch and take care of the collections, and they started working immediately after the water stopped, the water was still there but it stopped going up, so they immediately started cleaning, taking all the damaged things away, it was a kind of very hectic but in a good order, it was a very hard work and I think they've done really a good job because when you look around, it's almost clean, and that is a great job, because this is a huge space and it was completely flooded."

The National Gallery is receiving help from abroad, and although the damage has not been fully counted yet, it's estimated at 60 million crowns.

04-09-2002