National Museum – Lapidary (Národní muzeum – Lapidárium)
The building was built in the Prague Exhibition Grounds for the Jubilee Exhibition in 1891. Today, you can see the exhibition "Sculpture Monuments in Bohemia from the 11th to the 19th century", monuments from houses demolished during urban renewal, Gothic sculptures from the Parléř workshop, the Marian column from the Old Town Square in Prague, and the original seven sculptures from Charles Bridge, including Matyáš Bernard Braun's Vision of St Luitgard.
May – November
- 10.00 – 16.00
- 12.00 – 18.00
- 12.00 – 18.00
- 12.00 – 18.00
- 12.00 – 18.00
Lapidarium of the National Museum
Lapidarium is a building with the largest specialized collection of the Czech, mostly stone sculpture since the Middle Age in the 11th century until the 19th century. The name Lapidarium is derived from the Latin word “lapis” that means a stone. This name has been established as a designation of a collection of stone sculptures and architectural elements of both, the Middle Age and modern times. Either these artworks had been already used and must have been moved for various reasons from their original places, or they had been damaged so badly that they were replaced with copies and the originals were deposited. Lapidaries are also in other cities, e.g. Regensburg, Vienna, the Cluny Monastery in French etc.
The idea of establishing the lapidarium within the National Museum dates back to the first-third of the 19th century. One of the founders of the museum, Count Kolovrat-Libštejnský, requested an establishment of the drafts collection of the urban architectural sights, sculptural groups, plastic art, epitaphs and other things. Subsequently, František Palacký wanted to collect large and heavy monuments with historical themes in 1841.
A pavilion called Lapidarium at Prague exhibition grounds known as Výstaviště was built as a seasonal provisional measure by Prague architect Antonín Wiehl for the National Jubilee Exhibition in 1891. The master builder of the Neo-Renaissance building was Quido Bělský. From all the then exhibits, only the oldest ones can be seen there: the clay tiles from Vyšehrad. The basis of today’s Lapidarium was collected in 1898 during the important Exhibition on architecture and engineering. The construction of the pavilion was finished and rebuilt for this exhibition. It was done in a Baroque-like Art Nouveau style by architect Antonín Hrubý. Other exhibits were continually added to the ones of this exhibition, especially from the houses demolished during the redevelopment of the old Prague at the turn of the century. Therefore in 1905 a permanent exposition of Lapidarium was opened to the public. Jan Koula and Václav Fabián contributed to it in the first place. A part of the exposition was also the Langweil model of Prague, which the National Museum later donated to the city.
After the First World War, during which it was closed, the Lapidarium was in danger of losing its building. Finally, the building was reconstructed, the collections were reinstalled and in 1932, the space of Lapidarium could be opened to the public again. During the Second World War the collections were endangered by bombing raids on Prague, therefore they were taken to safer places. The largest objects were covered by sand. After the demanding restoration of the installation, the Lapidarium was ceremonially opened to the public for the third time, in 1954. In 1967, the building was due to serious disrepair closed again, namely for water leakage, and once more there was a threat of moving the collection. Eventually, in the years between 1987 and 1993, the building was reconstructed and the collection was installed again, so that it was ceremonially opened to the public for the fourth time, in 1993. It happened especially thanks to Dr. Lubomír Sršeň a Jiří Fajt.
In the space of 1300 m2, in eight halls with historical painted ceilings that come from now on-existing buildings, there are exposed more than 400 best exhibits of the collection comprising two thousand items. It is a unique collection of Czech stone sculpture of eight centuries. Materials are represented mainly by marlstone, sandstone and marble, there are also artworks created from clay, stucco, plaster of Paris or bronze. There are pillars, windows, portals, keystones, gargoyles, brackets, canopies, epitaphs, fountains, vases and above all sculptures, groups of sculptures and memorials.
The first hall is devoted to the Romanesque and Gothic period. E.g. there is a fragment of the oldest Czech monumental relief from a tympanum from Oldříš, a children’s epitaph of Guta II, the tenth daughter of King Wenceslaus II, from the Convent of St. Agnes, pillars from the crypt decoration of the former Basilica of St. Vitus at the Prague Castle or our oldest preserved space sculpture – a couple of lying lions on a pedestal, from the beginning of the 13th century and last but not least a set of engraved Gothic epitaphs of the abbots from Ostrov u Davle.
In the second hall there are statues that have been replaced by copies on their original places. Namely these are the figures of Charles IV (Karel IV) and his son Wenceslaus IV (Václav IV) or statues of Czech national patron saints: St. Vitus, St. Adalbert and St. Sigismund (svatý Vít, svatý Vojtěch, svatý Zikmund) from the Old Town Tower (Staroměstská mostecká věž). The third hall is dedicated to the Bohemian Renaissance and we can find there e.g. a part of the Krocín’s fountain from the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), including its model.
In another hall there are Baroque sights: among the largest it is the Slavatovský portal, through which the entrance led to the well-known Baroque Slavatovská Garden behind today’s Jiráskův Bridge. The portal was called the Bear Gate (Medvědí brána) according to two bears standing on the top. The sandstone gate is over 9 m long and almost 5 m wide. There are also the group sculptures from the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), e.g. St. Wenceslas among angels, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, all torn down by flood, while the Baptism of Christ was damaged during shooting in 1848. Other sculptures from the Charles Bridge are by major sculptors of high Baroque - Ferdinand Maxmilian Brokoff and Mathias Braun, e.g. the Vision of St. Luitgarda
In the fifth hall there are mainly torsos, e.g. a part of the Marian column from the Old Town Square, one of the masterpieces by Jan Jiří Bendl, who is also the author of equestrian statue of St. Wenceslas, originally standing in the middle of the Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) and the copy of which is nowadays mounted in Vyšehrad. Thanks to the statue of Hercules fighting with a lion, from a house in the New Town (Nové Město) from the 17th century, we can see colorfulness of polychrome sculptures of that time. The original of the Wimmer’s fountain, a copy of which is at Uhelný trh [Coal Market Square], from the year 1797 by František Xaver Lederer is also worth admiring.
In the last hall there are two monuments that were removed from the open spaces in Prague in 1918 and were not replaced: a part of the memorial of Count Radetzky of Radetz (maršál Radecký z Radče) and his soldiers from the Lesser Town Square (Malostranské náměstí) created by Josef and Emanuel Max and an equestrian statue of Emperor Francis I (František I) by Josef Max that used to stand in a Neo-Gothic monument with a fountain named the Honor of Bohemian estates (Hold českých stavů) in a small park at today’s Smetanovo Embankment (Smetanovo nábřeží). Lately, four sandstone statues from the front of the Church of Holy Saviour (kostel sv. Salvátora) at Klementinum have been moved here. These statues stand for St. Augustine, St. Matthew, St. Lukas and St. John.
In 1995, the Lapidarium was placed in the top ten of most beautiful exhibitions in Europe in an international competition.