Monday, 4 December 2017

St Barbara and the Miners

I was in Cesky Krumlov two years ago today and thought I was just there for the Christmas market. Nothing was due to happen until the day after (5th December) when St Nicholas, accompanied by angels and devils would arrive. I was wrong.  

In the distance came the sound of a brass band and into the town square marched men in uniform carrying standards and flaming torches. These were not soldiers or firemen, but miners from all over the country. They had gathered in Cesky Krumlov for two reasons.

First this was St Barbara's Day. St Barbara is the patron saint of miners, which was why the great church at Kutna Hora by the gold miners of that city is St Barbara's church. In a profession as dangerous as mining it was important to have a saint interceding for you. In one version of the story Barbara fled the ire of her father into a mine where the miners gave her refuge and she has been returning the favour ever since.

Secondly Cesky Krumlov was also a mining town and has its own guild of miners. Gold and silver were to be found in the hills around the town. The other metal, which continued to be mined when gold and silver ran out, was graphite. As you walk along the river path at the foot of the castle you can see the boarded up entrances to small mines and you can even go down the graphite mine on the Chvalsinska Road.

In this old picture of Cesky Krumlov miners you can see most of them are wearing the smart black uniforms that appear on the banner image (above) and that I was seeing in the square. If you look closely the miner behind the truck coming out of the mine is in his work clothes.

After the marching, the music and the speeches, the miners got down to enjoying themselves with their families. And posing for photos!

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