19th century altar returns to Old Town Hall

The altar was damaged in World War II and needed extensive repairs

An altar has been returned to the chapel in the Old Town Hall after 73 years. The altar, designed by Czech architect Josef Mocker, was severely damaged on May 8, 1945, the last day of World War II in Europe.

The restoration was based on black-and-white photographs. Some work already took place after the war to restore the polychrome sculptures and paintings, but it was not completed.

The altar was left in many pieces, which were stored in the attic of Old Town Hall. Some parts were missing and some others were very small. The missing parts had to be re-created.

Some 17 restorers, painters and sculptors worked on the altar for 10 months. The paintings and sculptures on the altar are copies based on photographs.

A plaque on the altar contains a vial of with a finger and earth, both from the battlefield at Zborov, which occurred in Ukraine in World War I. The Czechoslovak Legions participated in the battle, and it was the only successful battle in the July Offensive.

The relics are related to the beginnings of Czechoslovakia, which gained independence in 1918.

In the chapel is used for religious services just once a year, on May 5 at 12.33, the exact time when radio operators called for help in 1945. The service is for the memory of victims of World War II and in particular the Prague Uprising.

The chapel used to have the oldest bell in Bohemia, but that was damaged by the fire in 1945.

The chapel was taken out of service under the religious reforms of Emperor Joseph II in the late 1700s and used for storage. It was renovated and reconsecrated in 1857, and modified 30 years later, which is when the altar by Josef Mocker was installed.

The chapel was consecrated in 1381, and it was used for important events such as funerals of significant figures.

Old Town Hall has undergone an extensive renovation that has taken more than a year. The structure of the tower has been reinforced to be able to handle the volume of tourists. Internal spaces including the chapel have been renovated. During the work, a time capsule was found and a new one was hidden.

The rails on the observation deck were changed in the first phase. Clock faces on the top of the tower were returned to their Baroque designs, with gilded hands.

The last part of the renovations will be the restoration of the Astronomical Clock, which will be unveiled Sept. 28 at 6 pm.

The year 2018 is not only the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia but also the 680th anniversary of when King John of Luxembourg gave permission to create Old Town Hall.

A wing of the Old Town Hall burned down at the end of World War II as well. The wing has not been replaced and is now filled with grass and benches as well as merchants' stalls. Several efforts have been made to replicate the building or make a new one, but so far nothing has happened due to strong public opposition to tampering with the square.

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