The Saint George Statue of Prague Castle

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One of the most particular monuments of Prague Castle is the equestrian statue of Saint George, situated in the Third Courtyard right next to Saint Vitus Cathedral.

Tourists like to have a rest on its pedestal, especially in the summer heat, as one of the dragon’s heads pours fresh water. Guides often tell that this is a rare example of Gothic art. Yet, it has an even more exciting history.

The statue of Saint George is one of the few remaining equestrian statues of medieval Europe made from bronze. Historians cannot determine when exactly it was transferred to Prague.

However, there is evidence that the statue was made by the brothers Martinus and Georgius in 1373 in Kolozsvár in Transylvania, at the time in the Kingdom of Hungary (today Cluj-Napoca, Romania). A Latin inscription certified this on the shield of the saint. Although the shield disappeared from the statue in 1749, the inscription has been noted by historian Bohuslav Balbín in 1677.

The Brothers of Kolozsvár are considered as one of the greatest sculptors of 14th century Europe. Several statues of them had been acclaimed by contemporaries as outstanding artworks, but Saint George is the sole remaining example.

According to the most common theory, the statue was a gift of King Louis I the Great of Hungary (1342–1382) to his father-in-law Charles IV of Bohemia (1346–1378). Since then, the statue has been repeatedly damaged during the 16th century; once during a fire, once by spectators of a tournament who climbed upon it and broke part of it.

However, it has always been restored and was later put atop a Baroque fountain. This was replaced by the current modern fountain designed by Slovene architect Jože Plečnik, during the reconstruction of the castle complex in the 1920-30s. Nowadays the original statue is preserved at the permanent exhibition of Prague Castle, while the exterior example is a precise copy.

The statue of Saint George is regarded as one of the most outstanding Gothic sculptures in the Czech Republic. With its richly elaborated details, it is a forerunner of Renaissance. George, a typical medieval knight wears an armor decorated with ornaments on his chest. His head is particularly detailed and his horse wears elaborated trappings. The dragon is just receiving the deadly stub right into its mouth, while its tail is rolled up on one of the legs of the horse. All in all, the composition is full of action, which was rather unusual at the time.

The statue of Saint George is not only a part of Prague’s heritage. One can find its copies in Budapest, Cluj-Napoca (the former Kolozsvár where it has been designed), in Szeged in southern Hungary, and in Sepsiszentgyörgy (now Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania). Thus, this extraordinary masterpiece of medieval art also reflects the tight historical links of Central European countries.

Author: Zoltán Prohászka

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