The entire area of the Chapel of the Holy Rood and its
individual parts, including the paintings of Theodoric,
has gone through many complicated situations, which have
marked its original appearance. Much has vanished or has
been pushed aside forever and the awareness of importance
has also changed. The present restoration of the Theodoric
panels (leaving aside for the moment the question of whether
and to what extent this is authentic work by Theodoric)
necessarily brings with it a number of conjectures,
considerations and unsettled questions connected with
the determination of the extent of the originality of
their individual components. It is, therefore, necessary
to combine arthistorical, historical and technological
findings and the results of restorers' and chemical analyses
so as to reconstruct, with the greatest possible measure
of probability, the changes in the artistic quality and
appearance of the individual panels in the course of their
existence. The following lines are, therefore, an attempt
at recapitulation of what has been ascertained so far
concerning the operations carried out on the panels from
the Chapel of the Holy Rood.
The oldest interference with the decoration of the Chapel
can be hypothetically presumed to have taken place in
connection with the economic difficulties of the Emperor
Sigismund in financing the First Crusade against the Hussites.
After the Coronation on 28th July 1420 Sigismund began
to confiscate Church and provincial treasuries in order
to pay his mercenaries. This was the fate of the treasures
of St Vitus' Cathedral, St George's Monastery in Prague
Castle and also, probably, of the treasure stored at Karlštejn
The real blow to Karlštejn, this time more precisely identifiable
and recorded, was the besieging of the Castle and the
long years of hostility between the Hussites and the Castle
garrison, which, under the command of Jan of Leskov and
Zdislav Tluksa of Buřenice, remained loyal to Sigismund.
This hostility, interrupted by partial and constantly
extended peace, actually lasted from the beginning of
the siege of Karlštejn by the Hussites, which began on
20th May 1422, up to the Jihlava Diet and the acceptance
of the Compáctala of 1436. Since Sigismund did not support
the defenders of the Castle financially in any way, apart
from the year 1429, when he sent to Karlštejn a sum
of money intended for the payment of wages, they had to
look after themselves. To begin with they had certain
resources. Apart from the Castle 's own treasures at the
beginning of the Hussite Wars treasures were also transferred
here from some of the monasteries such as Ostrov, Zbraslav,
the Vyšehrad Chapter and in 1420 the St Vitus' treasure
was sent there (it is impossible to determine exactly
when and to what extent this left Karlštejn).
In the surviving Castle accounts from the years 1423 to
1434 there are numerous documents on how the individual
elements of the decoration of the Castle were sold, all
those which were of some value. At the beginning it was
a matter of the sale of gold, silver, precious stones
and pearls which came from the reliquaries and other objects
stored in the Castle. Later clearly all the valuable things
had already been sold and so in 1434 it was necessary
to sell even a valuable chasuble 2.
In the years 1420 to 1434, then, it is extremely
probable and indeed almost certain that operations were
carried out on Theodoric's panel paintings in connection
with the removal of their valuable parts.
After this, conjecture and guesswork again come to the
fore. Part of the agreeements on the recognition of Sigismund
as the King of Bohemia was, apart from the acceptance
of the Compáctala, also the return of the Crown Jewels
together with the St Wenceslas Crown and all provincial
privileges to the Czech Lands. These were, indeed returned
to the country and placed at Karlštejn 3.
The Crown Jewels and the Crown Archives returned
to their original home, the Chapel of the Holy Rood, and
the question remains of whether this was in some way reconstructed
at this time. The Chapel served as a depository for
the Crown Jewels also during the time of the Margraves
Menhart of Hradec and Oldřich of Hradec (for a time
they left Karlštejn Castle and were deposited in Velhartice),
Berka of Duba, Beneš of Weitmile and his representative
Albrecht of Kolovraty. From the course of the 15th century,
especially from the period after the fire in 1487 there
exists information on repairs and alterations to the Castle,
but none of these directly concerns alterations and repairs
made to the Theodoric's panels 4.
Alterations were also made to the Castle in the 16th century
and these certainly also concerned, at least in part,
the Chapel of the Holy Rood, as is shown, for example,
by the new doors from the year 1562 installed at the time
of the Margrave Jan Borita of Martinice and at Smečno.
The Chapel of the Holy Rood, which was the most significant
part of the Castle because in it were situated the Crown
Jewels, the Crown Archives and from 1541 also copies of
the Land Rolls, seems, however, within the framework of
the repairs carried out in the 16th century to have been
some kind of exclusive area. A detailed report, which
has been preserved of an inspection of the Castle carried
out in 1597 by Jan Knínský, Matěj Koutský and Jan Hollar,
Chamberlains of the Land Rolls, gives a quantity
of details on the repairs and alterations carried out,
but the Great Tower seems to have been hardly touched
by the building operations. Only cracks in the walls of
the stair-well called for building repairs and adjustments
which were followed in the years 1608 to 1609 by repairs
to the paintings. Records mention, however, inter alia,
the sum of 500 three-scores of Meissen guilders which
was paid to the painters for work in the Church of the
Holy Virgin which was in 1596, apart from building repairs,
also »with different colours, fine figures from the Old
and New Testaments painted 5...«
There is, then, cause to suppose that if at this
time, or in the time close to the period when the Chamberlains
of the Land Rolls inspected Karlštejn Castle, painting
work had been carried out in the Chapel of the Holy Rood,
then there would at least have been a mention of
this in the report. This was, in effect, a check
on the expenditure of finances permitted by the state
for the repair of the Castle. Earlier, in 1587, a similar
inspection took place and on the basis of its findings,
when it was ascertained that the Margrave Jan of Vchynice
and at Zasmuky had used the 3000 three-scores of Meissen
guilders allowed in 1579 by parliament for his own ends
rather than for the improvement of the Castle, there was
an immediate change in the office of Margrave to which
Jáchym Novohradský of Kolovraty was appointed 6.
The latter really did take care of the Castle,
as can be seen from the extensive survey of building operations
given in the report from the year 1597.
From the known details of the financial sums allowed by
the Land Parliament for repairs to Karlštejn in the course
of the 16th century and at the beginning of the 17th century
one cannot deduce that at that time any repairs to the
Theodoric panel paintings in the Holy Rood Chapel were
carried out. From the sum of 1200 threescores for Meissen
guilders allowed in 1545 only 400 threescores were intended
for building purposes, the remainder was for the purchase
of arms, 500 threescores permitted in 1556 were for various
building repairs anda new entrance door to the chapel
was installed in 1562. The 3000 threescores of guilders
allowed in 1579 melted away during the improper administration
of the Castle under the Margrave Jan of Vchynice. On the
husbanding of the 1500 threescores of guilders granted
by Parliament in 1587 and 750 threescores of 1588 and
other funds of this time there exists relatively precise
information in the report of the Chamberlains of the Land
Rolls of 1597.
After the death of the Margrave Jáchym Novohradský of
Kolovraty Parliament granted his lieutenant in this office,
Jan of Vřesovice, a further 5000 threescores of guilders
for repairs. These, however, probably took place under
the new Margrave Vilém Slavata of Chlum and at Košumberk,
who replaced the deceased Jan of Vřesovice. During the
period of office of in the years 1608 to 1609 there, undobtedly,
occured repairs to the paintings on the staircase of the
Great Tower and for the Chapel of the Holy Rood new candlesticks,
cupboards for archives and relics and carved chests were
ordered, but there is no metion of any repairs to Theodoric
's paintings 7.
Known historical répons, then, do not provide
a sufficient basis for conjectures as to possible
repairs t the panels during the reign of Rudolph II. This
is quite a significant circumstance demonstrating,
inter alia, the artistic criteria and values of the time.
The state of the pictures was of warfare when the entire
Castle fell forfeit to the Kafkas of Říčany and was also
captured by the Swedes. The pious Kafka of Říčany took
away from the Castle all the saints' relics and in so
doing also opened up the reliquaries beneath the paintings
8 and, as Balbín
mentions, one of Theodoric's paintings has been missing
since the time of the Swedish occupation. Many other furnishings
also vanished from the inventory of the Chapel. This can
be seen from the report on the inspection carried out
on 3rd February 1652 by Johann Wilhelm Diezler and Dionysius
Miseront. According to them there was nothing here worth
mentioning. Again there is no mention made here of the
panel paintings or their state. They clearly were still
not worthy, according to the scale of artistic values
of the time, of any special importance and did not arouse
any interest in any other way either. The situation changed
in the second quarter of the 18th century. In the report
on the inspection of the Castle, which was elaborated
on 6th March 1731 by Johann Andres Pelz, there appears
for the first time, apart from the enumeration of the
building faults which need repairs, also the idea of the
need to preserve the paintings in a good state. 9
So far, however, clearly no repair had been made.
Unusual interest in the paintings of Karlštejn Castle
was caused by Lessing's publication of the manuscript
of Theophilus Presbyter, Schedula diversarum artium. The
idea had been expressed that some of the pictures were
oil paintings. This opinion was held in particular by
the painter Jan Quirin Jahn (1739-1832), and the pictures
were, therefore, subjected to an investigation, which
was to confirm this opinion.
The investigation was officially supported by the Land
Government, which provided for it, in the year 1780, the
sum of 17 guilders 16 kreutzers. Apart from František
Lothar Ehemant (1748 to 1782), who was the leading personality
of the entire action, J. Q. Jahn, Fr. Wolf, J. Kastner
and J. Sechtner participated in this. Information on the
method of implementation and the results of the tests
was given by Ehemant, who had already investigated the
pictures in 1779, in letters to Count Kounic. The pictures
were rubbed with firm brushes and there was a faint
smell of varnish. With the use of a preparation by
Mr. Kastner and turpentine no changes occured which would
signalise the presence of wax. The very varnishes themselves
and the high gloss which the paintings maintained even
after four centuries and the traces of the brush-strokes
left in the painting were sufficient signs, according
to Ehemant, that the painting in question was in oils.
Ehemant did not, unfortunately, give a precise list
of the research methods used nor precisely which paintings
were investigated. The result was, however, quite obvious
at that tim oil painting. During the investigation on
the altar triptych the signature of Tommaso da Modena
was discovered on 10 th May 1780 10.
with the paintings at Karlštejn in 1780 aroused exceptional
interest. Ch. Mechel, who built the Imperial Picture Gallery
in Vienna, showed interest in some of the pictures. The
wish soon became an order and so in that same year the
triptych by Tommaso da Modena, The Crucifixion with Mary
and John and the two pictures of the Church Fathers (St
Ambrose and St Augustine) were transferred to Vienna.
Ehemant personally saw to the removal of the pictures
and their transfer.
Apart from the investigation of the main problem, which
was the determination of the technique of the Karštejn
Paintings, Ehemant also dealt with the general consideration
of the state of preservation of the pictues in the Chapel
of the Holy Rood. In a letter to Count Kounic on
24th May 1779 he stated that in the Chapel of the Holy
Rood one picture is missing, but this was already missing
in Balbin's time. A further picture was broken, clearly
after a fall. Damage also occurred during the removal
of relics. Some the pictures were desecrated by inscriptions.
According to Ehement the bad state ofpreservation was
also contributed to by the thick ground layer of chalk,
which caused the flaking off of the painting and also
the unfavourable effect of light. He thus came to the
conclusion that forty of the pictures were in a good
state, thirty-eight damaged to a medium extent and
fifty-six paintings were in a bad state of preservation
After the death of Ehemant in 1782 interest in the paintings
declined rof a while. No repairs took place. And
so Ehemant was indirectly responsible only for the fact
that Karlštejn Castle lost its most important paintings
at this time.
Repairs to the Theodoric panels in the Chapel of the Holly
Rood took place in the years 1840 to 1841. Even earlier
than this, in 1832, the painter and restorer František
Honička proposed that the paintings should be cleaned,
the damaged places renewed and the panels painted over
with varnish. After this in 1837 painter Eduard Gurk and
the Director of the Imperial Gallery Petr Krafft were
sent to Karlštejn to consider the state of the paintings
and propose the manner of their repair. On three panels
they tried out preparations which were meant to help their
better preservation 12.
Also active in the preparation
of the repairs and their safe-guarding was the Society
of Patriotic Friends of the Arts, which prepared the actual
proposal for the procedure of restoration. In 1839 (1st
July) 2000 guilders were released for the repair of the
panel paintings. After this, in the autumn of 1839, the
pictures were removed from the framework (this work began
on 1st or 2nd October 1839) and after being well wrapped
up they were transponed to Prague Castle. In the following
year, 1840, the test restoration of one picture was carried
out. Discussions arose, however, on the method of repair
and what should be the final appearance of the panels.
This was clearly a matter of serious importance because
it was still not clear whether the repairs would be undertaken
by the historical painter and restorer Václav Ignác Leopold
Markovský (1789 to 1846) or his colleague Josef Karel
Bürde (1799 to 1848). In the end it was decided by Imperial
order of 7th November that the repairs would be carried
out by Vaclav Markovský. It is significant that he was
meant to do so according to the proposal of the Society
of Patriotic Friends of the Arts of 23rd September 1840.
This proposal required that panels be restored without
the renewal of the gold background and ornamentation.
The Society also established a special committee,
which was to supervise the execution of the restoration
Markovský restored in the course of 1841, a total
of 128 panel paintings for afee of 896 guilders, i. e.
for the restoring of each picture he received 7 guilders.
The restoration was completed before 12th November 1841.
It was then that Markovský demanded the payment of the
remainder of his fee (before this he had received two
partial payments of 100 and 200 guilders). After the approval
of the method of restoration by the Society of Patriotic
Friends of the Arts the remainder of the fee was paid.
For a general determination of the nature of the
restoration done by Markovský at this time one can make
use of a list of the materials used. On it are given,
inter alia, linseed oil, glue, a vaguely described
balsam, material for filling, turpentine, linen canvas,
After the completion of the restoration of the panels
there followed in 1842 the strengthening of the old frames,
the production of strengthening frames and parquetting,
which was carried out by the Beroun carpenter Václav Bedřich
Kilches. For this work he received 264 guilders and 12
The frames and wooden objects in the Chapel were impregnated
at the same time with a »prepared« application 15.
The work done by Markovský and actually also that of Kilches
determined for a lengthy period the appearance of
the panel paintings and their frames. These frames and
the strips between the paintings lasted until Mocker's
restoration of the Castle after over five hundred years
of existence when they were destroyed and replaced with
copies realised around the year 1900. The gilding of the
decor was carried out in 1904 16,
actually after the official completion of the restoration
of the Castle. In the meantime in 1901 the four pictures
lent in 1780 to the Viennese Imperial Collections were
returned to Karlštejn.
The historical framing of the pictures, therefore, vanished
almost without a trace. In the thirties of the 20th
century, under completely different conditions and on
an entirely different ideological basis. Bohuslav Slánský
began to take an interest in the paintings themselves.
At this time he cleaned them, removed the resin varnishes
and in particular preserved the panels and the paintings
with a wax composition. The filling and retouching
was also carried out on a wax base. Slánsky's restoration
work marks the beginning of a completely new stage
in the existence of the panels. A stage which set itself
the goal of preserving the maximum of the material and
spiritual elements of old works of art.
Vratislav Nejedlý, AHVT A 030 (J.D.)
1 W. V. Tomek, Dějiny Prahy IV,
Praha 1879, str. 64; V. Dvořáková, D. Menclová, Karlštejn,
Praha 1965, str. 189.
2 V. Dvořáková, D. Menclová, 1. c., str. 190-192,
J. Pelikán, Účty hradu Karlštejna z let 1423-1434,
Praha 1948, str. 14, R. Nový, Doplňky k „Účtům hradu
Karlštejna z let 1423-1434», FHB 10, str. 193
3 R. Koss, O. Bauer, Archiv koruny české, Praha
1939 - 11, V. Dvořáková, D. Menclová, 1. c., str. 192.
4 Otázkou zůstává, jak se kaple dotkly stavební
zásahy po roce 1487, kdy došlo k zaklenutí dvou pozemních
místností Velké věže křížovými klenbami.
5 J. E. Wocel, Relací o opravě hradu Karlštejna
od i. 1597, PA III (1859), str. 73.
6 A. Sedláček, Škody na Karlštejně roku 1587, PÁVI
(1865), str. 232-233.
7 J. Neuwirth, Mittelalterliche Wandgemälde und
Tafelbilder der Burg Karlstein in Böhmen, Praha 1896,
str. 9; V. Dvořáková, D. Menclová, 1. c., str. 206-215,
k opravě maleb na schodišti B. Balbín, Misceli, hist.
reg. Bohem. dec. I. lib. III. kap. VIII, 3, str. 103,
8 V. Dvořáková, D. Menclová, 1.
c., str. 219.
9 J. Neuwirth, 1. c., str. 10, 107.
10 V. Dvořáková, D. Menclová, 1. c., str. 226;
J. Neuwirth, 1. c., str. 11; Ehemantovy dopisy byly otištěny
in: Die Schildereien der böhmischen Königsburg Karlstein,
Taschenbuch für die vaterländesche Geschichte, N. F. 5.
Jahrg., Mnichov 1834, str. 69 a d.
11 J. Neuwirth, 1. c., str. 12.
12 J. A. Helfen, Die Wiederherstellung der Burg
Karls-Tein in Böhmen, Mittheilungen der k. k. Central
- Commission..., MF XXVHI (1902), str. 10, 15.
13 J. Neuwirth, 1. c., str. 108.
14 tamtéž, str. 109.
15 tamtéž, str. 17.
16 D. Menclová, Restaurace hradu Karlštejna, ZPP
VII (1947), str. 119-120.
17 B. Slánský, Oprava tabulových obrazů v kapli
sv. Kříže na hradě Karlštejně, ZPP 1938, str. 24-27; týž,
Oprava obrazů z hradu Karlštejna, Volné směry XXX
(1935), str. 205-210.