For more than 250 years, a large Marian column stood on Prague’s Old Town Square. In 1918, it was torn down by an angry mob which saw it as a symbol of Austrian rule. Now, more than 100 years later, sculptor Petr Váňa is attempting to put up a copy of the Baroque structure at its original location. However, the Prague authorities are against it.
Sculptor Petr Váňa has been working on a copy of the Prague Marian column for over 20 years. Earlier this week, he carried parts of the column on board of a boat from Stará Boleslav to Prague. The vessel will stay anchored near Charles Bridge until the sculptor completes the final part of the replica, the crown of the column.
“We have a total of 60 tons of stone blocks on board. The pillar and the pedestal have been stored in the garden of the convent of the Borromean sisters in Prague.
“The statue of the Virgin Mary, which I worked on for about 10 years has already been completed and it now stands on a makeshift pillar in front of the Týn Church on Old Town Square.”
The original Marian Column, a 14-metre-tall Baroque structure, was erected on Old Town Square in 1650 in gratitude for the end of the Thirty Year’s War.
In 1918, just five days after Czechoslovakia’s declaration of independence, it was pulled down by an angry mob, which saw it as a symbol of the Habsburg takeover of the Czech lands. Soon after the fall of Communism in 1989, a dispute flared up whether a copy of the column should be installed on the Old Town Square. Sculptor Petr Váňa has been one of the most vocal supporters of the column’s renewal:
“It is a beautiful statue and the very first Baroque statue in the Czech lands. It is one of the keys to Czech Baroque art. And I think that when the statue does not stand in its place, the Czech Baroque Art is missing something.”
The Association for the Renewal of the Marian Column has been lobbying for the cause at the Prague Council since 1990. Although they have already obtained a building permit and permission from conservationists, they are still missing some additional documents, including a permit to close off the part of the Old Town Square in question.
At the end of last month, Mr Váňa attempted to start rebuilding the column at its original location, but after having removed seven square metres of cobblestones to make way for the structure, he was stopped by the police on grounds that he did not have the required permit.
This Saturday, the sculptor plans to start removing the cobblestones again, although he still hasn’t received the necessary permit from the Prague City Council. The event will be preceded by a public gathering, where the founding stone of the new column will be unveiled.