The Czech Coronation Jewels are extraordinary and precious masterpiece created by the dexterous hands of the best goldsmiths. It is utterly impossible to express the value of these symbols of the Czech statehood. Being invaluable, they are safely kept in the Crown Chamber, which can be found above the southern vestibule of St Vitus Cathedral.
Two doors, seven locks and seven keys…
Actually they cannot really be found at all because their chamber is (with no exaggeration what so ever) the least accessible place of the entire Prague Castle. The Coronation Jewels are behind a door and behind that door there is … another door – this time belonging to an iron safe. Both of the doors have not one, not two but seven locks which can be opened if and only if the holders of all seven keys get together.
Who are the seven people entrusted with such a responsibility?
Well, there is…
- the President
- the Prime Minister
- the Prague Archbishop
- the Chairman of the House of Deputies (the lower chamber of the Parliament)
- the Chairman of the Senate (the upper chamber of the Parliament)
- the Dean of the Metropolitan Chapter of St Vitus Cathedral
- the Lord Mayor of Prague
The jewels are not only kept at the Castle but can be also displayed exclusively on its premises. The occasion, which is to be decided about by the President, has to be truly exceptional. This can be proven when we note that during the twentieth century the jewels were shown only nine times.
What are the Coronation Jewels comprised of?
- St Wenceslas Crown of Charles IV (1347)
- The Royal Sceptre (the first half of the 16th century)
- The Royal Orb (the first half of the 16th century)
- The Coronation Vestments (the most important part is the Coronation Cloak from the beginning of the 17th century)
When the Bohemian kings were being crowned St Wenceslas Sword and the Coronation (Reliquary) Cross were also used. Nevertheless, they do not belong to the jewels but rather to the treasury of St Vitus Cathedral.
This is the oldest item among the jewels. It is named after and also dedicated to the Duke and Patron Saint Wenceslas. It was made for the legendary king and emperor Charles IV. His head had to carry 2.5 kilogrammes of pure gold (21-22 carats). Both the central cross and crown’s diameter measure 19 centimetres. It has four vertical fleurs-de-lis and two arches that meet underneath the golden cross with sapphire cameo.
Here is a list for all lovers of precious stones – the crown is decorated with:
- 19 sapphires
- 44 spinels
- 1 ruby
- 30 emeralds
- 20 pearls
The Orb is also made out of pure (18 carat) gold and is decorated with precious stones – 6 spinels, 8 sapphires and 31 pearls. It measures 22 centimetres and weighs 780 grammes. The lovely example of Renaissance jewellery bears Latin words:
DOMINE IN VIRTUTE TUA LETABITUR REX ET SUPER SALUTARE TUAM EXULTABIT
which can be translated as:
O Lord, in Thy strength the king will be glad and in Thy salvation how greatly he will rejoice.
You should also notice the tiny six sphinxes at the base of the cross sitting on the sphere which has on it relief with Biblical scenes.
The sceptre is also made out of pure (18 carat) gold. It “grew” in the hands of the goldsmith to measure 67 centimetres and weighs one kilogramme. You could count 4 sapphires, 5 spinels, 62 pearls and there are also lovely engravings to be admired.
The cloak is made out of gold lily. Naturally, this is no flower but precious fabric made out of silk – the threads are interwoven with pure gold. The entire cloak, over two metres long and three metres wide, is edged with ermine you all know from pictures of kings in children’s books with fairy-tales. Ermine is stoat’s winter fur-coat – material so rare that it is just for the kings and therefore rightly beautifies the royal vestment.