The original Marian Column was erected in 1650 as a celebration of the end of the Thirty Years War, one of the bloodiest wars in European history. Designed by sculptor Jan Bendl the column is topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary and has a chapel on its bottom where another image of Madonna is stored.
What makes Marian Column a controversial monument is a fact that the Thirty Years war started with an unsuccessful rebellion of Czech protestants against the Catholic Habsburg rule. Habsburgs defeated the Czech Estates in the battle of Bila Hora on November 8th, 1620, and took over the Bohemian kingdom for the next 300 years. They also executed the 27 members of the Czech Uprising and passed a law that sent the Protestant population into exile and illegalized all the religions except Catholicism.
Czechs regained their full independence only at the end of WW1 when the Czechoslovakian Republic was founded in 1918. All the signs of Habsburg oppression were removed by the local population and Marian Column was not an exception: it was torn down by the Prague citizens as a symbol of their victory over the Imperial rule. Even though there was no official permission to remove the statue from the square, Czechoslovakian President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk sympathized with the local population and mentioned that "when the people of Prague removed the statue, I was glad because the statue was a political disgrace for us".
After the end of Communism, the talks about Marian Column's "come-back" reassumed. The association for restoring of Marian Column was established but there were many rivals to the idea of bringing it back. The biggest opponents were the Protestant groups that asserted that this column is, first and foremost, a reminder of the oppression of religious rights and not just a historical monument. The column's association even attempted the erecting without a permit in 2019, but the city police called it off.
Despite the public upheaval, Marian Column was reinstalled in January 2020. The column's consecration that took place in summer 2020 was accompanied by protests of the Czech Hussite church.
The Marian Column re-installment is still a dubious issue with some people criticizing it and others arguing, that this column is a valuable work of art that deserves its place on the Old Town Square. Let's not forget, that another statue on the square dedicated to a Protestant reformer, Jan Hus, was also once controversial :)
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Author: Valeriia Zahradnikova and Vaclav Zahradnik, Prague guides certified by Prague City Tourism agency. Valeriia and Vaclav have worked in tourism for over 6 years and have guided thousands of Prague visitors.