Tuesday, 17 March 2009


24 January. I climbed up the hill on its southern approach, where on 14 July 1420 the Hussites under command of Jan Žižka overpowered the crusading army of Emperor Sigismund. The crusaders flew in panic down the steep northern slopes, sank into a slough of despond and gave up laying siege on Prague.

Alphonse Mucha, After the Battle of Vitkov: God Represents Truth, not Power (1916), from the 'Slav Epic' (1909-1928).

In front of the National Memorial (1927-1932) is the huge bronze equestrian statue (installed 1950) by Bohumil Kafka (1878-1942), who looked to paintings of Mikoláš Aleš (1852-1913) for inspiration and engaged in some serious hippology as further preparation. (The model for the statue survived hidden in pieces in various locations during the Second World War.) "One-eyed Žižka" in this bronze and his other numerous depictions is seen after losing his first eye in battle and before losing the other.

(This banknote has a story attached to it.)

The monument was founded in celebration of Czech statehood, used as storage space by the German Wehrmacht, after the war held the ashes of the country's legionnaires, then the ashes were ignominiously removed in order that it become a "labourer's pantheon", before becoming a mausoleum to house the remains of the first Communist president, Klement Gottwald (whose mummification was botched so he was later cremated), followed then by other communist leaders. After 1989 it was variously used for filming, adverts, a Stelarc performance, ... and finally the National Museum acquired the site in 2001.
When I visited the National Memorial was in the midst of reconstruction: it is to house an exhibition provisionally called the "Crossroads of Czech Statehood".

The snow of recent days had thawed.
I walked the length and back of Vítkov park in sunshine, my eyes becoming accustomed again to grass green, to the reascension of greys and umbers, and to the proliferation of details hidden until now under cover of white. Along the spine of the hill runs a tarmac road, splitting and patched with temporary repairs, deformed by the roots of trees.

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