Marian Column may return to Old Town Square

The Prague 1 district has given approval to installing a replica

The idea to replace the Marian Column on Old Town Square won approval of some key city officials and it could be back as soon as next year. It was torn down in 1918 just as World War I ended and Czechoslovakia achieved independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Replacing it remains controversial, as many people view it as a symbol of the occupation of Bohemia that began after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620.

A decision allowing for a place to put the column was issued by the Prague 1 district a few days ago. The decision was justified by the column having a long and verifiable place on the square, and that the column is a part of the concept of the square. The city's Department of Monument Care issued a favorable decision on restoring the column in 2014.

People who oppose the restoration of the column can still file a complaint, however.

The replica is an exact sandstone copy of the original, which stood on Old Town Square for almost 268 years before being torn down in 1918. The fragments of the original are in the possession of the Lapidarium of the National Museum.

The column would stand on a reinforced concrete foundation. Most of the original foundation still exists under the square and can be reused.

The plinth would have stairs and a balustrade. On top of the column there would be a statue of the Virgin Mary. The column would stand about 16 meters tall.

The replica was made without funds from the city, and the installation also would be paid for from private funds. After it is installed, the ownership would be handed over to the city.

The stones and labor to make the column were donated by a group that wants to restore the column. The project is complete save for four angels, which should be finished in time for next year.

Sculptor Petr Váňa has worked on the replica for almost 20 years.

Ideally, it could be in place in October 2018, which is the anniversary of independent Czechoslovakia. Construction would take place at times when the square is not particularly busy with seasonal markets or events. The Old Town Clock Tower should also be restored by October 2018.

The column was built in Old Town Square in 1650, shortly after the Thirty Years' War, to thank the Virgin Mary for helping in the fight against the Swedes. It also functioned as a sundial, and at noon its shadow crossed the Prague Meridian.

The campaign to replace the statue has been going on since the late 1990s. The city announced in 2013 that it would be restored, but after the city government changed that did not happen.

This is not the only Hapsburg era monument that may be restored. Plans to revitalize Malostranské náměstí call for the statue of Field Marshall Radecký, which is also in the Lapidarium, to be returned to the square but there is some opposition to that idea as well.

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