The demolition of the Marian Column was one of the most iconic events of the newly proclaimed republic. The monument was seen as a symbol of the Habsburg Monarchy, and it paid the price. The column has opponents even today.
“Her head was violently severed from her body,” said Zizkov anarchist Franta Sauer, describing the demolition of the Marian column and the decapitation of the Virgin Mary. Sauer played a key role in the demolition of the column, which was surrounded by a large crowd on the first Sunday of the new era of the Republic.
The crowd of people marched into the centre of Prague from Bila Hora 100 years ago. It was a heated anti-clerical reminder of the fateful battle in November 1620. Sauer was assisted by the Zizkov firefighters, whom he had met in a pub in Zizkov. They supplied not only the manpower, but also the necessary ropes, chisels, and hammers.
There was a fight between the enthusiastic revolutionaries and the group of people who wanted to defend the baroque monument. The guardians of the column did not succeed, however. “Just take it down!” shouted socio-democratic politician Josef Stivín.
The revolutionaries wanted the fragments of the monument to be thrown from Charles Bridge into the Vltava, but this did not happen. Likewise, thankfully it was possible to prevent the destruction of the statues standing on Charles Bridge.
The debris of the monument instead ended up behind the gates of the municipal court at Prague’s town hall. The head of the Virgin Mary and fragments of the monument were later moved to the Lapidarium of the National Museum. After the act, the National Committee dissociated themselves from the demolition of the monument.
As the aftermath of the rebellion started to calm down, there were a few proposals to restore the monument. This did not happen in the era of the First Republic. After 1989, however, the situation began to look hopeful. A collection was created and the renovation of the monument was started in the studio of sculptor Petr Vána. There were also official hearings.
An unwanted monument
The story of the return of the sculpture and contradictory rumours spread like wildfire. The National Collection began 23 years ago, and in June 2017, supporters of the renovation received positive feedback from the construction department of Prague 1 town hall and intended to start working on it in the Autumn of that year.
Last September, however, the municipality received the petition signed by thousands of opponents who were overwhelming against the return of the column. In accordance, the city council had to do everything in its power to rescind all the contracts, and the city had to withdraw consent to the placement of the statue.
Today, the sandstone replica of the Marian column is finished but remains with sculptor Petr Vána in his studio.
Author: Holly Webb