The Memorials of the Toleration Period. The Heritage of Our Fathers Has Its Value

DSCF6766It is a bit of a shame that Prague has no permanent exhibition on the topic of the history of the Reformation in the Czech lands. You will find a number of Protestant museums in France or Germany, the same applies to Budapest. Raising awareness of our Reformation-related history is important, especially with regard to the current series of anniversaries we have been commemorating: the publishing of the Kralice Bible, the deaths of Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague, the beginning of the Reformation (Martin Luther), and the meeting of the Czech Protestants at which the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren was established. It is strange that our Protestant history should not be presented more proudly to the public when it has so much to offer: Hus and his predecessors as the heralds of the European Reformation, the years of religious peace with the Unity of the Brethren, the Toleration years, and the unique combination arising from the unification of the two branches of the Protestant tradition.

Vysoka-ev-vstupThe discovery of an original chapel from the Toleration period, located in Truhlářská Street, has helped draw attention to the matter. In its time, the chapel used to serve both the Czech and the German Protestant churches in Prague – it was shared by the Lutheran and the Reformed confessions. Since it is currently a ramshackle building owned by the Prague municipality, it had originally seemed that gaining it with the purpose of hosting the planned Protestant Museum would not be a problem – until it turned out that the municipality had its own plans for the building and the necessary repairs would be much more extensive than expected. This makes any prospect of constructing the Protestant Museum at this site unrealistic, at least in the near future.

The situation is quite different in the countryside, with the Museum of the Czech Reformation in Velká Lhota near Dačice, opened recently as a result of the work of the Association of Friends of the Museum, and the Memorial of the Toleration period in Vysoká near Mělník, which was established on the premises of the Protestant church in Vysoká by the ECCB’s congregation in Mělník. The Memorial includes a church from 1786, a parish house with other buildings, and a cemetery. The modest exhibition on the topic of the Toleration period is located in the former morgue and provides information about the local Toleration churches but also about those that were founded later in Prague: the Kliment and Salvator churches. It is a pity that the chapel in Truhlářská Street is not mentioned.

Let’s treat old things with care and respect

We should truly value church archives and parish house attics, which often hold real treasures. The first portrayal of the Bible with the chalice, created by Jan Wégh, which has served as the symbol of the Protestant church for over 200 years, was found in Libiš, for example. Drafts of a church that was supposed to be constructed adjacent to the house in Truhlářská Street were found in the archive of the Salvator church. Although there is currently no Protestant museum or central depository, we should strive to preserve not only any documents referring to our church’s past, but also the valuable historical furniture and other movables that are often disposed of due to ignorance. Perhaps at least founding a central register, to keep records of all such objects, would be worth considering.

Jan Mašek