Original burial chamber of Emperor Charles IV discovered at Prague Castle

08-06-2005

This spring is a time of sensational historical discoveries in Prague. After archaeologists unearthed a jar full of 16th century silver coins last week - another amazing discovery has been announced. The original 14th-century burial chamber of Emperor Charles IV was uncovered at St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.

November 29th, 1378, three hours after sunset. The beloved Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, Charles IV, breathes his last. Doctors rush in to embalm his body and preparations for the monarch's funeral last for eleven days. Charles IV lies in state at the castle, then in three different churches in Prague. The funeral procession finally arrives at St Vitus Cathedral, the great Gothic church built during his reign, on the 15th of December, 1378. After an all-night vigil, the coffin is placed inside an underground grave in front of the main altar.

The burial chamber was discovered during recent restoration works. When studying documentation and fragments of the original Romanesque church on whose foundations the Gothic cathedral had been raised, researchers found out about the existence of a royal burial chamber. They drilled a small hole in the cathedral's floor and inserted a special probe with a camera and spotlight. Two large burial chambers opened up before them - containing fragments of coffins and bones. What the archaeologists also found was a sign on the wall from the late 19th century, saying that the architect and restorer Josef Mocker had explored the chambers when he was working on the main altar. He is believed to have removed everything from the chambers, sealing the entry afterwards. The floor in the cathedral was then newly paved and, unbelievably, Mocker's find was forgotten - only to be rediscovered 130 years later.

Today the remains of Emperor Charles IV lie in the cathedral's Royal Crypt alongside other Bohemian rulers under a gravestone made in the 1930s. Details of the important find, as well as photographs of the burial chambers and the latest news from the site will be presented to the public in exactly a month's time.

08-06-2005