Charles IV crypt explored

11-07-2005

The emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and Bohemian King Charles IV, who ruled the country in the14th century, has been making the front pages of Czech newspapers in recent weeks. Not only was Charles IV named the "greatest Czech of all time" in a TV poll, but a month ago archeologists discovered a crypt under St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle - his first burial place. Now archeologists have made their discovery public.

Look into the crypt of Charles IV, photo: CTKLook into the crypt of Charles IV, photo: CTK For some time archeologists specializing in the history of St Vitus Cathedral have speculated that there might be a hidden crypt under the cathedral - the tomb where Charles IV was originally buried. Among them is Jana Marikova-Kubkova.

"The trigger for this project was the discovery of plans by the architect Josef Mocker. He entered the crypt in the 1870s, and generally documented it. Then we understood that there really is something underneath the choir. Four years of geophysical research informed us about the basic parameters of the cavity."

King Charles IVKing Charles IV Since the crypt is under a very exposed part of St Vitus Cathedral, archeologists could not enter it directly. They had to use a very special approach, drilling a hole in the floor and plunging a camera on a stick into the underground cavity. They had to be careful not to destroy the cathedrals precious floor, says archeologist Milena Bravermanova.

"Since the hole was very small, we left the camera there and watched what was inside. Now we know there are remains of the other coffins, as well as remains of some canonical and archbishopric graves. But the remains of the kings and their relatives are not there. We know that they are certainly in the new crypt. There are also some remains of some older coffins here."

As Milena Bravermanova says Charles IV was buried here but later moved to a different crypt, back in the 16th century. So today you wouldn't find any of his remains here, or those of his relatives. The funeral costume of Charles IV's son John of Goerlitz was removed from the crypt centuries ago. Conservationists have now restored it and since last week you can see it in the Prague Castle Museum.

"It was a habit that the king had to be buried in a ceremonial garment. John of Goerlitz was not a king so he could not be buried in a ceremonial garment which belonged only to kings. But he could be buried in a ceremonial garment specially prepared for this funeral ceremony. It is clear that it was very quickly made garment, the stitches are incorrect, it does not have a lining but it glisters contemporary fashion. We named it Burgundian fashion because it was first used on the court of Kings of Burgundy."

The exhibited costume together with many other objects related to the history of Prague Castle are part of the permanent exhibition "The Story of Prague Castle", which is open every day from 9 to 5 p.m.

11-07-2005