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 Castle 1. 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. Everything connected 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 11.
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 work.

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, etc 13. 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 kreutzers 14. 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 a d.

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, Praha 1678.

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.