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What do we understand under the term „Crown Jewels“? They are actually objects that used to serve for the ceremonious coronation of the Kings of Bohemia. They are composed of the Crown of St. Wenceslas, Royal Sceptre, Royal Apple, Coronation Cloak. The jewels are completed by caskets and a cushion under the royal crown. The Coronation Jewels were proclaimed the national cultural relic in 1962. Due to this article you will learn a lot of interesting facts about our land treasures, for instance where you can see them.
Crown of St. Wenceslas
The oldest part of the jewels is the Crown of St. Wenceslas which Charles IV. got made for his coronation as the King of Bohemia in 1346. The crown looks like a golden diadem made of from four sections. Each of the sections has a big lily at its top. It was made of extremely pure gold (22 carat). All sections are at the top joined by two cross bands which are in the centre decorated by a little cross. Even the clips that keep the crown together are made of gold. You can see the gorgeous decoration of the precious stones and pearls, together it contains 18 sapphires, 1 aquamarines, 31 spinels, 15 rubies, 1 rubellite, 25 emeralds and 20 pearls. It is also interesting that a thorn from the crown of Jesus Christ is supposed to have been inserted inside the cross and top,which proves the Latin inscription on the cross. The Crown weights 2358,04 grams and it is 19 centimeters high, just like its diameter.
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The Sceptre is another entire part of the jewels and it was made of 18-carat-gold. It is 67 centimeters long and weights 1013 grams. The Sceptre is also richly decorated – it contains 4 sapphires, 5 spinels and 62 pearls. Its handle is covered by enamel leaves, flowers and tendrils and it is on its both sides finished by rings with a line of pearls. The Sceptre base resembles to the shape of a bloom and is decorated by pearls and precious stones.
Besides the Sceptre the new King is also holding the Royal Apple which comes from the same workshop as the Sceptre. It is made of 18-carat-gold. Its diameter reaches 11.9 centimeters and it is 9.8 centimeters high. Including the cross at the top it is 22 centimeters high and weights 780 grams. The whole coronation accessory is decorated by 8 sapphires, 6 spinels and 31 pearls and the beautiful image is completed by wrought reliefs.
The last necessity to become the King was to have the Coronation Cloak on. This one was probably made for the coronation of Ferdinand II, i.e. in 1617. Since that year it had been regularly used until 1836, until the last coronation of the King of Bohemia. The Cloak is made of red luxurious silky material it is bordered with ermine, i.e. ermine fur coat. The Cloak has no sleeves and at the back it is prolonged into the train. Because it is so precious it needs to be kept separately from the jewels in a specially airconditioned depositary.
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What did the jewels have to undergo?
The jewels travelled a lot in their history. They were saved in different places but always were taken back to Prague for the Royal Coronation. The coronation always took place in St. Vitus Cathedral. The jewels were saved in Karlštejn Castle, then they were transferred to Prague Castle. They were stored in České Budějovice during the Thirty Years´ War. In 1637, they were taken to the imperial treasury in Vienna where they stayed until 1791 when they were taken back to Prague. There they were saved in the former sacristy of St. Vitus Cathedral, in the place of the current Crown Chamber.
During the Austro-Prussian war they visited Vienna again, however for one year only. In Bohemia, the jewels were temporarily saved in the basement of St. Wenceslas Chapel. During the mobilization before WW2 broke out the jewels had been secretly moved to a branch of the National Bank in Žilina on September 20th, 1938. However, on October 6th they were for security reasons returned to Prague.On February 11th, 1944 the Germans hid the jewels away from the alied air raids in the basement of the Old Royal Palace, from where they were collected after the liberation of Prague in May 1945 and returned to the Jewels Chamber in St. Vitus cathedral in Prague Castle.
A certain legend is related to the crown jewels saying that who will place the crown on his head illegally he will die within one year. This legend is related to the imperial deputy protector Reinhard Heydrich. He got photographed with the crown jewels to show his power on November 19th, 1941. On May 27th, 1942, shortly after placing the crown on his head, an attempt on the protector´s life was made, as a result of which he died. Was the death really consequence of placing St. Wenceslas Crown on his head?
Doors are fitted by seven locks
The entrance door to the chamber is fitted by seven locks. The holders of the keys are the President, the Prime Minister, the Prague Archbishop, Chairman of the House of Parliament, Chairman, Chairman of the Senate, the Dean of the Metropolitan Chapter of St. Vitus Cathedral and the Lord Mayor of Prague. The locks under which the treasures of our country are hidden are unlocked only on special occassions when they can be seen by the public.
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