Statuary of the St. Cross with Calvary - the third one on the right looking from the Old Town Bridge Tower
the third one on the right looking from the Old Town Bridge Tower
This statuary, incongruous in style, was created during several centuries. A cross was there already before the Hussite period; the first document about it comes from 1361. The cross was destroyed by the Hussites in 1419 during their fighting with the Lesser Town people. The following cross, standing at the same place, was to be taken down before the Battle on the White Mountain because “winter queen” Elizabeth Stuart, who, as a Calvinist (the daughter of English and Scottish King James I and Danish Princess Anne), disapproved of veneration of statues and paintings, was scandalized by the naked crucified body of Jesus Christ. However, the queen was forced to leave the country before the statue was taken down.– The oldest part of the statuary is the bronze gilded body of Jesus Christ, made in Dresden in 1629 by bell-maker Hans Hillger based on a design of sculptor Wolf Ernest Brohn (1600–1664) and bought for Prague in 1657; two years after the statue was bought, it was placed on a wooden cross. For a long time it was the only statue on the bridge. In 1696, the gilded inscription in Hebrew, Holy, holy, holy Lord of the masses, was added to the cross and paid for with a fine charged to Elias Backoffen, a Prague Jew who sneered at the cross. The trilingual inscription from 1707 in the cartouche on the pedestal describes the incident: Triple holy, holy, holy, for the glory of the crucified Christ paid for from a fine that the reputable royal court charged to a Jew blaspheming the cross. Founded on 14 September 1696 A.D. Since Prague Jews and visitors found the inscription confusing and offensive, three bronze signs explaining the curious connection between the Christian scene and the Hebrew inscription were placed there in 2000 – The marble paneling of the bridge balustrade under the statuary was made in 1618. The emblem and inscription on the paneling, Donated by Prague Archbishop Jan Bedřich in 1681 in memory of Baron Karel Adam of Říčany who founded this eternal light and mass in the Metropolitan Chapel of St. Wenceslas and generously bequeathed Louňovice to the archbishopric, are to commemorate the gift of Karel Adam Lev of Říčany (†1672) who, before his death, bequeathed his Louňovice and Vodlochovice estates to the Prague archbishopric under the condition that the archbishopric would take care of the eternal light under the cross. In 1707, the figure of Jesus Christ with the Hebrew inscription was moved to a new bronze cross mounted on the stone pedestal in the shape of Golgotha full of stone frogs, lizards and other creatures made by Jan Jiří Hermann from Dresden. Sandstone statues of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist were created by Emanuel Max in 1861 and replaced lead statues made by Prague bell-maker Mikuláš Löw of Löwenberk (†1680) that are missing now. – The place in front of the cross was always considered sacred and it is believed that people crossing the bridge bowed there. This is the place where important events were declared and grand declarations read. On the opposite side, in the alcove of the bridge balustrade, criminals were executed and dishonest bakers put in a cage and lowered into the river.