Used as a propaganda tool by the Nazis and Soviets during the Second World War and Cold War, the remains of a 10th-century male, unearthed beneath Prague Castle in 1928, have been the subject of continued debate and archaeological manipulation.
The mysterious skeleton and associated grave goods, including a sword and two knives, were identified as Viking by the Nazis, as a Slavonic warrior by the Soviets and became part of the Czech independence movement in more recent years.
The remains were discovered under the courtyard of Prague Castle in July 1928 as part of an excavation project by the National Museum of the newly established Czechoslovakia to discover the earliest phases of the castle.
The body was located on the edge of an old burial ground from when a hill fort was built on the site, likely dating to AD 800–950/1000.
It was discovered by Ivan Borkovský, a Ukrainian who fought for both the Austro-Hungarians and the Russians in the early 20th century, before escaping to Czechoslovakia in 1920 but he did not immediately publicize or publish anything about the remains or the artifacts.
Under the Nazi regime, the remains became “proof” for the Germanic, rather than Slavic, origin of Prague Castle.
When Borkovský published a book identifying the oldest Slavic pottery in central Europe, the Nazi’s condemned the text and he was forced to withdraw it under threat of imprisonment in a concentration camp. When he published the Prague Castle remains a year later, it was overt in its “Nazi-influenced Nordic interpretation.”
After the war, Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Soviets and in 1945, Borkovský narrowly escaped being sent to a Siberian Gulag because of former anti-Communist activities.
He explained that he had been forced into the pro-Nazi interpretation of the remains and published a second article in 1946 which interpreted the burial “as that of an important person who was related to the early Western Slav Przemyslid dynasty.”
Lead author Professor Nicholas Saunders, from Bristol’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, said: “A number of studies have recently begun to re-interpret the remains and ours provides a new analysis.
“The goods found with the remains are a mix of foreign (non-Czech) items, such as the sword, ax and fire striker (a common piece of Viking equipment), and domestic objects, such as the bucket and the knives.
“The sword is especially unique as it is the only one discovered in 1,500 early medieval graves so far found in Prague Castle.
“Perhaps he was a Slav from a neighboring region, who had mastered Old Norse as well as Slavonic, or perhaps he regarded himself as a genuine Viking”
Prague Castle remains to be the most popular tourist destination in the Czech Republic, according to figures put together by Czech Tourism agency. Last year, it attracted over 2.4 million tourists, a nearly three-percent increase year-on-year.
The first 3 tourist destinations in 2018:
- Prague Castle (2.4 million visitors)
- Petrin funicular (2.07 million visitors)
- Prague zoo (1.4 million visitors)
While Prague Castle may be a given, some surprises made the diverse list of locations—which includes plenty of destinations beyond Prague—from the industrial sights of Dolní Vítkovice, to the zoo in Zlín and Aqualand Moravia.
CzechTourism also released some other rankings, aside from the top 50 list. The most popular architectural site was Obecní dům (the Municipal House) in Prague. The most popular memorial site was the ossuary at the Church of All Saints in Kutná Hora – Sedlec. Prague Castle was the most popular castle. The most popular museum was Forest, Game and Fishing Museum at zámek Ohrada in Hluboká nad Vltavou.
Other popular places include the Jewish Museum, the National Theater, Žižkov Television Tower, Průhonice Park, the National Technical Museum. While Průhonice Park is technically outside of the city limits, it is counted as part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Administration of Prague Castle, the presidential seat, has leased the late-Gothic Vladislav Hall, used for official ceremonies, for commercial purposes for the first time, in particular to the Louis Vuitton French fashion brand.
Next week, Louis Vuitton will hold a gala dinner for its clients and launch its exhibition of a new collection of jewels in Vladislav Hall, where the Czech heads of state are inaugurated and the president annually presents state orders and medals on the national holiday, October 28.
The French firm will pay 605,000 euros including VAT for the lease.
The Vladislav Hall, which is almost 500 years old, is one of the most important parts of Prague Castle because some of the most significant national events have taken place there. The chamber first served as the Hall of Homage to the Czech kings.
The hall was mainly used for ceremonial purposes, where homage was paid to monarchs after coronation ceremonies. Assemblies of the Bohemian Estates also took place in the Vladislav Hall. The coronation ceremonies featured tournaments between knights, as evidenced by the famous Rider’s Staircase, by which the knights entered the hall on horseback.
To start the season off at Prague Castle, you can visit the Castle’s visitor facilities for free on 11 May.
From 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. you can visit:
- Old Royal Palace, incl. the Vladislav Hall
- Sts Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert Cathedral
- St George’s Basilica
- Golden Lane incl. exhibitions
- Rosenberg Palace
The representative rooms will also be open on the first floor throughout the day. The New Royal Palace, which you can enter via the Majestic Hall, was built based on the design of Jože Plečnik.
Through the Labyrinth of Czech History at the Imperial Stables, a Hint of Statehood at the Riding Hall, the Renaissance of Prague Castle at the Theresian Wing and the Jože Plečnik 1996 Exhibition in the area under the tower in the south garden. Moreover, the Brass Music Band Festival will take place throughout the whole day on the stage at the Third Courtyard. If you have enough energy left, take the kids to the Stag Moat, where you can see birds of prey in action.
More info can be found on the official website of Prague Castle