Staroměstské náměstí: Jan Hus Memorial

Statue of Jan Hus, Old Town, Prague

This monumental bronze of the religious reformer Master Jan Hus – flanked by victorious troops of the 15th century Hussite wars but also by the exiled protestants of the 17th century Thirty Years’ War – was begun by the sculptor Ladislav Šaloun in 1903. Twelve years later, on 6 July 1915, it was unveiled in Prague’s Old Town Square to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Hus’s martyrdom in Konstanz.

From its inception, Šaloun’s statue excited controversy. His struggle to produce a monument that would satisfy all parties provides a fascinating glimpse into the continuing claims of religious and political factions in Bohemia. Whether Hus should be presented as downcast or visionary, isolated or part of a historical group, even tall or short (as the historical Hus apparently was) meant that Šaloun was forced to rework his original design numerous times. The final solution has Hus as the centre of a symbolic group, rising out of a sea of troubled history from a vast horizontal pedestal designed to counterbalance the vertical baroque column to the Virgin Mary which stood nearby until the defeat of the Austrian empire in 1918.

Visitors to the Old Town Square will once more be able to judge this effect for themselves when the restored Marian column is replaced in late 2012.