Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Inside the Jan Hus Monument in Prague

Two weeks ago I met with Petr Husek, the organizer of the Festival which will commemorate the 600th anniversary of Jan Hus' death in July. I am organizing special Jan Hus tours for people interested in finding out more about this great Czech who was a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation and I wanted to hear what was happening.

We arranged to meet in the Cubist cafe in the House of the Black Madonna. I arrived slightly late, but he was not there. He arrived shortly after, breathless and brushing dust off his coat.

"I have been meeting a reporter inside the statue on the Old Town Square," he said.

As excuses go, that was an original one. The statue is a colosal one, which is a major feature in Prague's historical old town. It turns out that the memorial is being restored and Mr Husek was being interviewed about it and the Festival (he features at the end of the video above). The statue was erected in 1915 for the 500th anniversary. It was funded entirely by private donations. On July 6th, Jan Hus Day, it will be the centre of Prague's celebrations.

We talked about our mutual admiration for Hus's philosophy. It is interesting the way Hus has been adopted as a symbol by very different philosophies. When the statue was erected, it was a statement of national pride and suffering. This was only three years before the birth of the first Czechoslovakian Republic. Under the Communists the act of sitting under the statue was a quiet way of expressing opposition to the Communist government, but at the same time the Communists presented Hus and the Hussites as a proto socialists. Now Mr Husek and his friends want to use the festival to reclaim Hus as a spiritual (but not just a religious) inspiration for the Czech nation, offering the Czechs an alternative, more moral, way of living in contrast to the self-centred philosophy that followed the arrival of capitalism. I wish them every success. It seems to me that they are closer to the real man than their precedessors.

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