Charles Bridge: Saint Ivo

Saint Ivo Helory was a thirteenth-century parish priest from Brittany who was canonized in 1347. He trained as a lawyer and rapidly made his name as an advocate for orphans, widows and the poor. Two of his cases remain famous: that of the Widow of Tours, whom he defended against a pair of cunning extortionists; and that of a mother and son who became reconciled after he ordered a mass to be said for them.

The statue was designed by the great baroque sculptor Matthias Bernard Braun and erected at the Old Town end of the Charles Bridge in 1711. Braun depicts the saint ministering to a group including a widow and her child, while blindfolded justice stands at his back with her scales and sword.  It is said that law students from Charles University would traditionally offer prayers to the statue of St Ivo before their examinations.

Whatever the truth of that story, the statue and its sculptor were evidently much admired: the university reportedly paid 1200 guilders for his work, the equivalent of around four years’ wages. Like many of its fellows, the original group was removed to the Lapidarium of the National Museum. Its replacement is a faithful copy executed by František Hergesel Jr. in 1908.