Čeština Pусский


Karlstein Castle is indisputably a unique work of culture and of the generosity of Emperor Charles IV, who raised the Kingdom of Bohemia to the heights of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross, with its unique interior decoration including panel paintings by Charles’ leading court painter, Master Theodoric, is the central and sacred space of the Castle.
The new porcelain collection of cups and saucers does not aim to copy historic shapes – its shapes should be contemporary and simple. These cups and saucers, decorated with the golden motifs of Master Theodoric’s paintings are a touch of the unique Gothic legacy, a projection of historical values into the modern day.
The individual cups and saucers bring to mind the Holy Cross Chapel with its portraits of St John the Evangelist, St Luke the Evangelist, St Matthew the Evangelist, St Mark the Evangelist, St Charles the Great and. St Louis.
With respect to our predecessors.
Miroslav Páral
Author of the porcelain collection

Chapel of the Holy Cross at Karlštejn Castle and Paintings by Theodoric of Prague

“There is no precious castle or chapel like it anywhere in the world, and rightfully so, for in it he kept the imperial insignia and the treasure of the entire kingdom”
Beneš Krabice of Veitmil
Chronicle of the Prague Church

The Chapel of the Relics of Christ’s Passion, located on the second floor of the Big Tower, is ideologically the most important and artistically the most valuable sacred space at Karlštejn Castle (www.hrad-karlstejn.cz). It is also significant because only the court’s noblest members could enter the chapel and masses there could only be performed by a bishop with pontifical rights. According to the chronicle of the era by Beneš Krabice of Veitmil, the chapel was consecrated on a Sunday after the Feast of Purification, on 9 February 1365, and was to serve as a depository for the imperial and holy relics of Bohemia; there were very few precedents for such a chapel in Europe.

The rectangular space of the Chapel of the Holy Cross is divided into two parts by a grille with an arch containing 12 mounted precious stones. The wall ornamentation is separated into three zones. In the lower zone, there is painting imitating a marble panel; in the second zone, we see painting imitating wood into which small crosses made of precious wood are fitted. The ʽearthly’ sphere is separated from its ʽheavenly’ counterpart by a band consisting of hundreds of vertically directed spikes; the spikes are directed horizontally in the corners of the window niches. The chapel’s vaulting is decorated with glass-covered gold stars (including the Sun and the Moon). The window niches are surrounded with wall paintings of which the iconography is related to the panel paintings located in the chapel.

The chapel’s walls contain 129 (originally 130, one painting has been lost) panel paintings by Theodoric of Prague and other masters, either from Theodoric of Prague’s own workshop or members of Prague’s Guild of St. Luke who were invited by Theodoric of Prague. The paintings depict prophets, saints and angels grouped into the hierarchy of Christ’s Heavenly Army or Ecclesia triumphans. It is unquestionable that there must have been a detailed concept for the layout of the paintings, as there is a mutual and sophisticated communication between the saints depicted. Relics were placed into most of the paintings, so the saint is present in the picture, both symbolically and in reality.

Theodoric of Prague was significantly involved in the decoration of the Chapel of the Holy Cross and is mentioned in several sources. A celebratory mention of Theodoric of Prague by the emperor himself can be found in a 1367 document addressed to a free estate in Mořina.

Theodoric of Prague’s panel and wall paintings are characterised by a sense of the monumentality of forms; the half-length portraits of the saints on the panels in the Chapel of the Holy Cross at Karlštejn Castle fully cover the area of the painting; many times, the painting continues onto the frame and creates the impression of a perfect illusion. The characteristics and origin of Theodoric of Prague’s artistic style have been the subject of many discussions. Various opinions are traded between Italy, the Rhineland and France.

However, one thing is unquestionable. The paintings by Theodoric of Prague and his collaborators are among the world’s most important works of art.

Theodoric of Prague’s paintings on a collection of cups and saucers

The paintings of the evangelists St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. Luke, as well as the paintings of Charlemagne and St. Louis, are considered to be the works of Theodoric of Prague himself. The depictions of the evangelists are placed on the altar wall of the Chapel of the Holy Cross together with paintings of Christ’s relatives and contemporaries. Originally, all the evangelists held small gold crosses, which were probably removed during the Hussite Wars. Some researchers see the painting of St. Luke as a crypto portrait of Theodoric of Prague, as he was the head of the Guild of St. Luke, who is the patron saint of painters.

The paintings of Charlemagne and St. Louis belong to the ʽgallery’ of holy kings who represent individual European monarchies. Charlemagne (747/48–814) is the patron saint of the kings of the Holy Roman Empire. It is natural that he was greatly venerated by Charles IV, who had the Bust of Charlemagne reliquary, which includes the crown of Roman kings, made for the Aachen Cathedral Treasury. Charles IV also founded a church consecrated to the Virgin Mary and Charlemagne in Karlov, Prague; its layout resembles the octagon of the church in Aachen where Charlemagne is buried and Charles IV and his son Wenceslas IV were each crowned as King of the Romans. St. Louis (1214–1270) is the patron saint of the French monarchy, as attested to by the many kings bearing his name. During his stay in France, Charles IV admired Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, which Louis had built as a reliquary for Christ’s Crown of Thorns bought from the Byzantine emperor. Charles IV received two thorns from the crown and deposited them in the Cross of the Bohemian Kingdom. St. Louis also ordered the deposition of relics of French kings buried in other cathedrals at the Basilica of Saint-Denis. This idea of a royal necropolis was the inspiration for Charles IV to build a pantheon for his Přemyslid ancestors at St. Vitus’s Cathedral.
Professor Jan Royt