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Revisiting the Habsburg Mausoleum in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2021

James Palmitessa
Affiliation:
Department of History, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Corresponding

Abstract

The Habsburg Mausoleum in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, designed and constructed in the second half of the sixteenth century by Alexander Colin from Mecheln in the Low Countries, is often noted in modern scholarship as an early manifestation of the influence in Bohemia of the Habsburg dynasty, which had ascended the Bohemian throne in 1527 and ruled without interruption until 1918. Bridging both art historical and social cultural scholarship, this article explores the location and spatial features of the mausoleum, as well as its reception by contemporaries. It argues that while the style and size of the mausoleum is modest, its central location changed the dynastic symbolism in the cathedral, placing the Habsburgs at its center. And while it is less visible than other Habsburg cultural projects of its day, it—more than any single cultural project of the early Habsburg dynasty—demonstrates and symbolizes Habsburg ambitions in and commitment to Bohemia and is an important element in both the transformation of Prague into a Habsburg residential city and in long-term Catholic renewal efforts.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Center for Austrian Studies, University of Minnesota.

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Footnotes

A shorter, earlier version of the first part of this article was presented in the panel session “Prophecy and Politics in Central Europe in the Sixteenth Century” at the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by the Center for Austrian Studies of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 26–29 October 2017. Thanks to Craig Koslovsky and Andrew Thomas for their comments on the presentation; José António Brandâo, Stephen Staggs, and two anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions on earlier versions of the article; and the Burnham-Macmillan Endowment of the Department of History, Western Michigan University, for funding participation in the conference.

References

1 “Po vykonání toho to tělo Maximiliana, dobré paměti hodného, jest na hradě pražském v prostřed hlavního kostela před chůrem, kdež slavné paměti císař Ferdinandus a paní manželka jeho, královna Anna, rodičové téhož císaře Maximilian, pohřbení jsou, také pohřben a položen jest. Sic transit gloria mundi.” Mikuláš Dačicky z Heslova, Paměti, with introduction by Josef Janáček, ed. Jiří Mikulec (Prague, 1996), 126.

2 Kaufmann, Thomas DaCosta, Court, Cloister, and City: The Art and Culture of Central Europe 1450–1800 (Chicago, 1995), 220Google Scholar; Morávek, Jan, “Královské mausoleum v chrámu Sv. Víta a jeho dokočení v letech 1565–1590,” Umění 7 (1959): 52Google Scholar.

3 Vocelka, Rosemarie, “Die Begräbnisfeierlichkeiten für Kaiser Maximilian II 1576/1577,” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 84 (1976): 105306CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Vocelka, Karl and Heller, Lynne, Die Lebenswelt der Habsburger: Kultur und Mentalitätsgeschichte einer Familie (Graz, 1997), 288319Google Scholar; Die private Welt der Habsburger: Leben und Alltag einer Familie (Graz, 1998), esp. 212–19; Milena Bravermanová, “Pohřby Habsburků ve Svatovitské katedrále,” in Příběh Pražského hradu, ed. Klára Benešovská (Prague, 2003), 313–20.

4 Hubala, Erich, “Palast- und Schloßbau, Villa und Gartenarchitektur in Prag und Böhmen,” in Renaissance in Böhmen: Geschichte, Wissenschaft, Architektur, Plastik, Malerei, Kunsthandwerk, ed. Seibt, Ferdinand (Munich, 1985), 5255Google Scholar; Blažant, Jan, “The Prague Belvedere, Emperor Ferdinand I and Jupiter,” Umění 51 (2003): 262–77Google Scholar.

5 Hubala, “Palast- und Schloßbau,” 109–12; Krčálová, Jarmila, Centrální stavby České renesance (Prague, 1974), 5057Google Scholar. See also Madelon Simons, “King Ferdinand I of Bohemia, Archduke Ferdinand II and the Prague Court, 1527–1567,” in Rudolf II and Prague: The Imperial Court and Residential City as the Cultural and Spiritual Heart of Europe, ed. Eliška Fučíková et al. (Prague, 1997), 80–89.

6 A classic work on tombstones from art historical scholarship is Panofsky, Erwin, Tomb Sculpture: Four Lectures on Its Changing Aspects from Ancient Egypt to Bernini, ed. Janson, H. W. (New York, 1964)Google Scholar. A work that helped bring to light various aspects of death and dying within the broader narrative of European social and cultural history is Philippe Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, trans. Helen Weaver (Paris, 1977; New York, 1981). Some recent works that have embraced broader themes are Koslofsky, Craig, The Reformation of the Dead: Death and Ritual in Early Modern Germany 1450–1700 (New York, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Whaley, Joachim, ed., The Mirrors of Mortality: Studies in the Social History of Death (New York, 1981)Google Scholar; and Eire, Carlos M. N., From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Cambridge, 1995)Google Scholar. Important works on various aspects of death and dying in the early modern period in Czech historical scholarship are Václav Bůžek and Pavel Marek, “Krankheiten, Sterben und Tod Kaiser Rudolfs II. In Prag,” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 125 (2017): 40–67; Martin Holý and Jiří Mikulec, eds., Církev a smrt. Institucionalizace smrtí v raném novověku (Prague, 2007); Pavel Král, “Křtiny, svatby a pohřby. K vzájemné relexi panovických a šlechtických přechodových rituálů ve druhé polovině 16. a první polovině 17. století,” in Šlechta v habsburské monarchii a císařský dvůr (1526–1740), ed. Václav Bůžek and Pavel Král (České Budějovice, 2003), 439–56; Král, Pavel, Mezi životem and smrtí. Testamenty české šlechty v letech 1550 až 1650 (České Budějovice, 2002)Google Scholar.

7 Two other works that closely engage both history and art history dealing with the early Habsburg rulers of Bohemia are Kaufmann, Court, Cloister and City, and Vocelka, Karl, Die politische Propaganda Kaiser Rudolfs II (1576–1612) (Vienna, 1981)Google Scholar.

8 On the design of Prague under Charles IV, see Crossley, Paul and Opačić, Zoë, “Prague as a New Capital,” Prague: The Crown of Bohemia 1347–1437, ed. Boehm, Barbara Drake and Fajt, Jiří (New York, 2005), 5981Google Scholar.

9 The late fifteenth century is a murky period that is just beginning to be closely mapped out. See Laura Lisa Elizabeth Stith Scott, “Assembly, Dissent, and Political Cohesion: Bohemian Institutional Development in the Fifteenth Century” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2018).

10 See Josef Macek, Jagellonský věk v českých zemích (1471–1526), vols. 1 and 3 (Prague, 1992, 1998); and Šmahel, František, “Pražské povstání,” Pražský sborník historický 14 (1986): 35102Google Scholar.

11 See Janáček, Josef, České dějiny. Dobá předbělohorská, I (Prague, 1971)Google Scholar; Evans, R. J. W., The Making of the Habsburg Monarchy 1550–1700 (Oxford, 1979)Google Scholar.

12 Jaroslav Pánek, “The Religious Question and the Political System of Bohemia before and after the Battle of White Mountain,” in Crown, Church and Estates: Central European Politics in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. R. J. W. Evans and T. V. Thomas (New York, 1991), 129–47; Pánek, Stavovská opozice a její zápas s Habsburky 1547–1577. K politická kríze feudální třidy v předbělohorském období (Prague, 1982).

13 See Eliška Fučíková et al., Rudolf II and Prague: The Imperial Court and Residential City as the Cultural and Spiritual Heart of Central Europe (Prague, 1997).

14 Helga Dressler, “Alexander Colin” (PhD diss., Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breigau, 1973); Egg, Erich, Die Hofkirche in Innsbruck: Das Grabdenkmal Kaiser Maximilians I. und die Silberne Kapelle (Innsbruck, 1974)Google Scholar.

15 In addition to the article by Morávek (n. 3), another important discussion of the Prague mausoleum is Jarmina Krčálová, “Renesance,” in Katedrála sv. Víta v Praze / K 650. výroči založení, ed. J. Krčálová (Prague, 1994), 133–70. Plans, communications, contracts, and other documentation on the production of the mausoleum were edited in the late nineteenth century and published in volumes of the Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen der allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses (henceforth JKSAK). On other tombstones in St. Vitus and elsewhere in Prague: Ivo Kořán, “Sochařství,” in Praha na úsvitu nových dějin /Čtvero knih o Praze/, ed. Emanuel Poche et al. (Prague, 1977), 151–77; Milena Critz Malíková, “Tombstones in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague” (master's thesis, San José State University, 1994). For recent scholarship on tombstones in the Czech Lands in the early modern period, see Jakubec, Ondřej, “Epitaphs in Bohemian Protestant Culture,” in From Hus to Luther: Visual Culture in the Bohemian Reformation (1380–1620), ed. Horníčková, Kateřína and Šroněk, Michal (Turnhout, 2016), 247–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jakubec, “Renesanční epitafy v českých zemích a jejich ‘konfesionalite,’” in Epigraphica & sepulcralia III: Sborník příspěvků ze zasedání k problematice sepulkrálních památek, pořádaných Ústavem dějin umění AV ČR, v.v.i. v letech 2008–2010, ed. Jiří Roháček (Prague, 2011), 163–93.

16 Morávek, “Královské mausoleum,” 52. On the royal crypt: Kamil Hilbert, Jindřich Matiegka, and Antonín Podlaha, “Královská hrobka v chrámu sv. Víta na Hradě Pražském,” Památné archeologické 37, nos. 3–4 (1936).

17 Roth, Josef, Die Kapuzinergruft (Bilthoven, 1938; Frankfurt, 1976)Google Scholar.

18 This is cited from a 1547 Codicil in the Archive of the Prague Castle; Malíková, “Tombstones in St. Vitus Cathedral,” 70–71.

19 Vocelka and Heller, Die private Welt, 84–85. See also Tracy, James D., Balkan Wars: Habsburg Croatia, Ottoman Bosnia, and Venetian Dalmatia, 1499–1617 (Lanham, MD, 2016)Google Scholar.

20 Vocelka and Heller, Die private Welt, 16–17, 105–23. On women's roles in family and politics, see also Patrouch, Joseph, Queen's Apprentice: Archduchess Elisabeth, Emperess Maria, the Habsburgs, and the Holy Roman Empire, 1554–1569 (Leiden, 2009)Google Scholar.

21 Boehm and Fajt, eds., Prague: The Crown of Bohemia.

22 Morávek, “Královské mausoleum,” 52. See also Stefan Samerski, “Konfessionalisierung versus Volksfrömmigkeit: Die Funktionalisierung der Landespatrone der Böhmischen Krone (1580–1650),” in Konfessionelle Pluralität als Herausforderung. Koexistenz und Konflikt in Spätmittelalter und Früher Neuzeit. Winfried Eberhard zum 65. Geburtstag, eds. Joachim Bahlcke, Karen Lambrecht, and Hans-Christian Maner (Leipzig, 2006), 355–95.

23 Dressler, “Královské mausoleum,” 66; Krčálová, “Renesance,” 155–56; JKSAK 15 (1894), reg. 11503, 11511; JKSAK 17 (1896), reg. 14982.

24 JKSAK 14 (1893), reg. 10525; JKSAK 15 (1894), reg. 11513, 11546.

25 Dressler, “Královské mausoleum,” 68–69.

26 Morávek, “Královské mausoleum,” 53.

27 Dressler, “Královské mausoleum,” 72; JKSAK 12 (1891), reg. 8213, 8264, 8266; JKSAK 14 (1893), reg., 10487, 10488, 10525, 10580; JKSAK 17 (1896), reg. 14982.

28 Morávek, “Královské mausoleum,” 53.

29 Ibid.; Krčálová, “Renesance,” 56.

Ibid.

30 Malíková, “Tombstones in St. Vitus Cathedral,” 61.

31 Ibid., 58–60; Kořán, “Sochařství,” 160–62, 164, 166. See also Michal Šroněk, “Sculpture and Painting in Prague, 1550–1650,” in Rudolf II and Prague, ed. Eliška Fučíková et al., 353–54.

Ibid.

32 Kořán, “Sochařství,” 158 and 167.

33 Tanner, Marie, The Last Descendent of Aeneas: The Habsburgs and the Mythic Image of the Emperor (New Haven, 1993), 67–118, here 107Google Scholar.

34 Dressler, “Královské mausoleum,” 208–310; Vocelka and Heller, Die Lebenswelt der Habsburger, 307–8.

35 Tanner, The Last Descendent of Aeneas, 162–82; Eire, From Madrid to Purgatory, 255–99.

36 Klára Benešovská, “Mezi Gotikou a Renesancí: Dynastie Jagellonců na Pražském Hradě,” in Příběh Pražskho hradu, ed. K. Benšovská, 230–32.

37 Tanner, The Last Descendent of Aeneas, 341.

38 Vocelka, Die politische Propaganda Kaiser Rudolfs II.

39 In the last twenty years, the Jagellonians have become the subject of new international and interdisciplinary research. See Dietmar Popp and Robert Suckale, eds., Die Jagiellonen: Kunst und Kultur einer europäischen Dynastie an der Wende zur Neuzeit (Nuremberg, 2002); and Evelin Wetter, ed., Die Länder der böhmischen Krone und ihre Nachbarn zur Zeit der Jagiellonkönige (1471–1526): Kunst, Kultur, Geschichte (Ostfildern, 2004).

40 K. Benešovská, “Příběh stavy Vladislavského sálu,” in Příběh Pražského hradu, ed. K. Benšovská, 233–37.

41 See Bérenger, Jean, A History of Habsburg Empire 1273–1700, trans. Simpson, C. A. (London, 1994), 64–73, esp. 70–71Google Scholar; and Hödl, Günther, Albrecht II. Königtum, Reichsregierung und Reichsreform 1438–1439 (Cologne, 1978)Google Scholar.

42 František Šmahel, “The Hussite Revolution (1419–1471),” in A History of the Czech Lands, ed. Jaroslav Pánek and Oldřich Tůma (Prague, 2009), 164–65.

43 Urbánek, Rudolf, Husitský král (Prague, 1926), 274Google Scholar. See also Heymann, Frederick G., George of Bohemia: King of Heretics (Princeton, 1965), 586601CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

44 Daniel Adam z Veleslavína, Kalendař hystorycký (Prague, 1590) from Digitální knihovna ÚK FF MU, 46, http://knihomol.phil.muni.cz/dl/oldbooks/kalendar-hystorycky-adam-z-veleslavina-d-1590-49535 (accessed 9 Dec. 2020); David Gans, Chronikartige Weltgeschichte unter dem Titel: Zemach David, verfasst im Jahre 1583 zum ersten Male aus dem hebr. Originaltext ins Deutsche übertragen und mit Anmerkungen versehen von Gutmann Klemperer (Prague, 1890), 70–71, 75, 83. See also James R. Palmitessa, “‘Socialní paměť husitské doby v kronikách raného novověku” in Jan Hus 1415 a 600 Let Poté, Husitský Tábor, Suplementum 4, ed. Jakub Smrčka and Zdeněk Vybíral (Tábor, 2015), 233–42.

45 On the damage caused by the fire of 1541, see, Václav Vladivoj Tomek, Dějepis města Prahy, vol. 11 (Prague, 1897), 205–6; Milada Vilímková and Dobroslav Líbal, “Architektura,” in Praha na úsvitu nových dějin, ed. Emanuel Poche et al. (Prague, 1988), 49; Jan Vlk, ed., Dějiny Praha, vol. 1 (Prague, 1997), 283–84.

46 Krcálová, “Renesance,” 135–40.

47 Eva Doležalová, “Konvikt svatého Baroloměje a seminář svatého Václava v Praze na Starém Městě-dějiny, hospodaření a studijní nadace,” in Facta Probant Homine: Sborník příspěvků k životnímu jubileu Prof. Dr. Zdeňky Hledíkové, ed. Ivan Hlavačka et al., 135–40; Čornejová, Ivana, Tovaryšstvo Ježíšovo: Jezuité v Čechách (Prague, 2002), esp. 29–38Google Scholar.

48 James R. Palmitessa, “Wer besaß die Kirchen und Klöster in Prag vor dem Dreißigjährigen Krieg,” Konfessionelle Pluralität als Herausforderung: Koexistenz und Konflikt in Spätmittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, Winfried Eberhard zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Joachim Bahlcke, Karen Lambrecht, and Hans-Christian Maner (Leipzig, 2006), 450–58; idem, “The Knights of the Cross with the Red Star and the Renewal of Ecclesiastical Property in the Pre-White Mountain Age,” in The Bohemian Reformation and Religious Practice, vol. 5, ed. Zdeněk V. David and David R. Holeton (Prague, 2005), 359–70.

49 “[P]ři kteréžto procesí stalo se tisknutí, křik a rozbroj v lidu, takželidé, kam do mohl, zvláště páni preláti … utíkali, domnívaje se ve lidu obecním nějaké pozdvižení býti. Veliká nesnáž byla … Strach v lidech”; Dačícký of Heslov, Paměti, 126.

50 Marek Bydžovský z Florentína, Svět za tří českých králů: Výbor z kronikářských zápisů o letech 1526–1596, ed. Jaroslav Kolár (Prague, 1987), 176. This report also appears in “Zpráva o pohřbu císaře Maximiliana v Praze,” České sněmy, vol. 5 (1577–1576), no. 76, http://www.psp.cz/eknih/snemy/v050/1577/t007600.htm. The pushing, shouting out, quarrels, and the tossing of coins is also reported in German-language sources: Vocelka, Rosemarie, “Die Begräbnissfeierlichkeiten für Kaiser Maximilian II. 1576/77,” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 84 (1976), 115–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

51 “Na hradě pražském v kostele hlavním sv. Víta uprostřed téhož kostela vyňata jsou těla z místa pohřebního, císařského a královského, totiž: Karla císaře toho jměna Čvrtého … císaře Ferdinanda, … a syna jeho císaře Maximiliana toho jména Druhého … též Anny.” Dačícký of Heslov, Paměti, 136.

52 Kramář, Vicenc, Zpustošení Chrámu svatého Víta v roce 1619, ed. Šroněk, Michal (Prague, 1998), 34Google Scholar.

53 See the tract that provides a theological rationale for the “cleansing” (vyčístění, Auszraumung) of the cathedral and a transcription of a popular pamphlet describing it as a “horrendous, frightening, atrocity” (abschewlichen erschecklichen Grewel), both from 1620, in Kramář, Zpustošení Chrámu, 121–36.

54 Ibid., 48.

Ibid.

55 “ist man auch auff die Käys. Begräbnusz kommen, da sie sich undereinander berathschlaget, ob mans auch hinausz thun, oder stehen lassen sole, haben die Herrn von Rupa, Herr Budawitz unnd mehrertheil der andern dahin geschlossen, man soll alles weg thun, es nehmen den besten platz ein, werd nernach desto grösserer raumb haben.” “Leták Grewel der Verwüstung,” in ibid., 124–25.

56 Ibid., 48.

Ibid.

57 Kaufmann, Thomas DaCosta, “Remarks on the Collection of Rudolf II: The Kunstkammer as a Form of Representatio,” Art Journal 38 (1978): 238CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Eliška Fučíková, “The Collection of Rudolf II at Prague: Cabinet of Curiousities or Scientific Museum?,” in The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe, ed. Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor (Oxford, 1985), 47–53; Kaufmann, Court, Cloister and City, 179–81.

58 Josef Hanzal, “Rekatolizace v Čechách: jeji historický smysl a význam,” Sborník historický 37 (1990): 37–91.

59 Louthan, Howard, Converting Bohemia: Force and Persuasion in the Catholic Reformation (Cambridge, 2009)Google Scholar; Mikulec, Jiří, Náboženský život a barokní zbožnost v českých zemích (Prague, 2013)Google Scholar. On the adornment of the Charles Bridge, see Louthan, , “Religious Art and the Formation of Catholic Identity in Baroque Bohemia,” Embodiments of Power: Building Baroque Cities in Europe, ed. Cohen, Gary B. and Szabo, Franz A. J. (New York, 2008), 5373Google Scholar.

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