The project to relocate a column dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the historic center of Prague (Czech Republic), destroyed at the time of the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is provoking lively debates and dividing the political class.
It was in the early 1650s that the Virgin’s column was erected in the heart of Prague, in thanksgiving for a victory over the Swedes and Protestant troops during the Thirty Years’ War.
It was knocked down in 1918, during the time of Czechoslovakian independence and the dismemberment of the Habsburg empire. An iconoclastic crowd knocked it over with the cry of “far from Vienna, far from Rome!” claiming to be freed as much from the Austro-Hungarian yoke as from the Catholic Faith.
Since then, the waters of the Moldau have continued to flow under the bridges of the city with a thousand steeples. A Catholic association, “for the revival of the Marian column,” was founded after the fall of communism. It has united with the sculptor Petr Vana and fights to place his replica of the monument destroyed in 1918 in the heart of the city.
Whenever the project—supported by the Cardinal Archbishop of Prague, Bishop Dominik Duka—has obtained a building permit from the state, the city council has opposed it and voted against its reinstallation.
The controversy continues to grow, because the building permit expires in July: the association defending the column has already tried to get the mechanical shovel in to dig a few shovels-full, but in vain, because the police intervened, blocking access to the site.
The future 60 ton-column waits peacefully in the holds of a boat anchored on the shores of the Moldau. May the Kafkaesque drama being played out at the foot of Prague Castle be unraveled for the greater glory of Mary.