Statue returning to Charles Bridge

A copy of the St. Francis Borgia statue was five years in the making

If you walked across the Charles Bridge during the last few years, you would have seen a few spaces with signs where some of the statues belong. One of those is about to be refilled.

A copy of the Baroque statue of St. Francis Borgia (sv. František Borgiáš) by sculptor Ferdinand Maxmilián Brokoff will be put in place on the Charles Bridge on the morning of Oct. 31 by the Prague Municipal Gallery.

The gallery is responsible for public sculpture in Prague. The original statue was removed five years ago and will be kept in a depository, along with other original sculptures from the bridge. Later, it will be restored.

Sandstone deteriorates over time due to pollution in the air, acid rain and constant contact with tourists. The stone is originally light tan but turns black over time in an urban environment. All of the sculptures on the bridge are made of sandstone except for the statue of St. John Nepomuk (sv. Jan Nepomucký), which is bronze. The Crucifix and Calvary is a mix of sandstone and other materials.

The copy of St. Francis Borgia is by sculptor and restorer Jiří Kačer. The life-size statue of the saint will be placed in the center of the base, which has already been put in place. Over the next two weeks, restorers will do the final retouching and preservation.

Originally, Charles Bridge, built in 1357, did not have sculptures. They began to be placed there in the late 17th century. Statues were paid for by wealthy patrons. There are 30 statue groups on the bridge, not counting the knight Bruncvík, who stands on a pillar to the side guarding the bridge.

Sculptor Ferdinand Maxmilián Brokoff is the author or co-author of nine of the sculpture groups on the bridge, though one has been replaced with a different statue.

The sculpture of St. Francis Borgia was commissioned by the imperial Burgrave František z Colletů in 1710.

St. Francis Borgia was the great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI, a grandee of Spain, a Spanish Jesuit, and third Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He was canonized in 1670 by Pope Clement X.

After his wife and children died, he gave up secular life and joined the Jesuit order when he was in middle age.

He advised kings and popes and supervised all the affairs of the Jesuits. Reportedly he led a humble life, which was a factor leading to his sainthood.

The statue shows him as a middle-aged man in a royal robe. Two angels flank his sides. The plinth has symbols related to his life and work, and a skull as a reminder that life is temporary.

Several of the original statues from Charles Bridge can be seen in the Gorlice in Vyšehrad. Some others are on display in the Lapidarium at Výstaviště.

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