More than a century after its destruction, a historic statue of the Virgin Mary was returned to Prague’s Old Town Square yesterday.
For the past 25 years, sculptor Petr Váňa has campaigned to restore the Virgin Mary statue on top of a 55-feet column in the famous square. This Thursday, Váňa was finally able to affix his recreation of the statue to its original location.
The original Marian Column was erected in 1652 to commemorate the victory of the pro-Catholic Habsburg forces over Sweden in the Thirty Years’ War. For centuries, the monument was a point of contention. Many people saw it as a reminder of the salvation of Prague during the last siege of the Thirty Years’ War while, for others, it was a celebration of Catholic victory and the defeat of the Protestant revolt in Bohemia.
The First World War brought about the collapse of the Astro-Hungarian Empire. Bohemia became part of a newly-minted independent country, Czechoslovakia, in 1918. The following month, the column was toppled by a group of radicals who saw it as a symbol of the former empire’s oppression.
After the end of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe 1989, a growing independence movement provoked the split of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Shortly after those events, sculptor Petr Váňa started his campaign to restore the monument that was destroyed in 1918. This Thursday, amidst the cheers of local onlookers and the prayers and hymns of devotees, Váňa was able to see the perfect replica he has created of the original Baroque statue, back in its place of honor.