The National Museum’s new exhibition, When the Emperor is Dying, commemorates the last journey of the King and Emperor Charles IV.

01.12.2016 | The National Museum is concluding the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of the birth of Charles IV. And so, in the Czech Museum of Music at Malá Strana, one of the last exhibitions of the year of Charles IV, introducing symbolically the themes of death and the historical immortality of this important ruler, will take place. However, the exhibition When the Emperor is dying will concentrate not only on the person and influence of the Emperor Charles IV, but also and primarily, it will allow a closer look into the world of medieval society. Many 14th and 15th century artefacts from the collections of the National Museum will be on show, complemented by rare loans both from public institutions and private collections. The exhibition will run from 26 March 2017 and will include a rich accompanying programme.

The grandeur of Charles IV's burial, the funeral procession and the magnificence of the mourning ceremonies indicate the importance of this historical figure, who has remained in the consciousness of the entire nation to this day. The procession offered a breath-taking spectacle and went through the famous historical parts of Prague - Vyšehrad, Prague Castle, Malá Strana (Lesser Town), and the Old and New Towns. At its head walked 546 black-clad lightbearers with lighted candles. The funeral was attended by representatives of the foremost noble families, the aldermen of the Old and New Towns and other important burghers. This was a truly unique occasion, unprecedented in those times.

The death and immortality of the King and Emperor Charles IV

When entering the foyer of the Czech Museum of Music, one is impressed by a copy of the monumental statue of the Emperor Charles IV Enthroned from the Old Town Bridge Tower, which dominates the entire space.

Through various exhibits, the first part of the exhibition will introduce life in medieval times during the Luxembourgs' reign in the Czech Lands. Visitors will see, for example, various objects of daily use, sophisticated architectonic elements from medieval times, a set of coins, seals and also examples of weaponry and armaments.

The next part is dedicated to the topic of death, dying and the role of the Church in the Middle Ages, and presents sacral objects - rings, outer vestments, chalices, pilgrimage badges, religious statuettes, reliquaries and so on. These objects accompanied every individual from birth in 14th and 15th century Christian society and prepared them for “the last things of man” - death and the life eternal, or damnation.

The main part of the exhibition is focused on the key moments of the death and burial of Charles IV, including the ceremonial path of the funeral procession, by presenting the textiles from the royal tomb at Prague Castle. Among other important artefacts exhibited here are, for example, the wooden triptych alterpiece from Slavětín, the antependium of Třeboň with the insignia of John I of Rosenberg and Elisabeth of Hals with sacral motifs, a beautiful monstrance, medallions and fragments of tombstones.

The final section of the exhibition is dedicated mostly to 19th century works of art which represent the lasting memory of the deeds of Charles IV relating to the majesty of his "second life".

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