PRAGUE – The Thirty Year’s War was one of the longest and most destructive religious wars fought in Europe’s history. Spanning between 1618 and 1648, the fighting between various Protestant and Catholic states resulted in the deaths of over 8 million people.
After the war ended with the Peace of Westphalia, Prague erected a Marian Column. Marian Columns are religious monuments that depict the Blessed Virgin Mary on the top and are often built in thanksgiving after a tragic event, such as the plague. But the Column of the Virgin Mary in Prague has a troubled history.
The original column was placed in the Old Town Square in 1650 as a sign of Marian devotion after the war. In 1918, shortly after Czechoslovakian independence was declared, many Czechs associated the Marian column with reign of the Hasburgs. On November 18, 1918, a crowd gathered and destroyed the Baroque era sculpture in a moment of revolutionary passion.
But for the past twenty years, sculptor Petr Váňa has worked on a sandstone replica of the original statue. Since 1990. citizens have petitioned City Hall to place Váňa’s replica of the column in Old Town City Square. In 2014, Prague’s Department of Monument Care issued a favorable decision to install the column. The Association for the Marian Column Revival received consent to erect the monument in July 2017.
But this week, Prague’s City Hall has taken steps to cancel it’s original contract with their latest decision to not replace the Marian column. City Hall considered two petitions relevant to the issue. The first was petition signed by more than 3,000 people, all in favor of the restoration of the column. The second petition was signed by more than 1,000 people and it was against the restoration.
Citizens who signed the petition against the monument argued that the Marian column was still a symbol of the Habsburg reign. “The restoration of the Marian column would mean the denial of the Czech history developments,” the petition read.
Meanwhile, supporters of the monument argued that the Marian column symbolizes and honors those who defended Prague’s Old Town during the Thirty Year’s War. They also called the column a “spiritual artifact”. Moreover, they stated that the Czech baroque sculpture movement can be attributed to the Marian column, which would have been one of the first baroque sights in Bohemia.
Additionally, the petition in favor of the restoration stated that the establishment of the Marian column next to the current statue of Jan Hus a church reformer burnt at the stake in 1415, would be a sign of reconciliation and healing.
Despite the desire expressed to continue with the restoration, City Hall plans to take legal action to withdraw from their earlier contract with the Society for the Restoration of the Marian Column, who had planned on giving Prague the replica statue as a gift.