If you are a fan of medieval history and the exceptional figure of these times, Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, you should not skip the National Gallery exhibition at the Waldstein Riding School in Prague. The exhibition presents Charles IV as a unique figure of Europe’s political and cultural history, an ambitious sovereign and visionary. Charles IV was famous for using arts and architecture to promote the imperial majesty, being one of the most generous patrons of arts in Europe. It is Charles IV to whom Prague may thank for being one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Charles IV has been known as the Father of the Homeland and many Czechs think of him as sort of icon, and idealized monarch. He was born on 14th May 1316 into a Royal family and was first named Václav, in honor of his illustrious ancestors on his mother’s side. It was only during his seven-year stay in France that he ‘picked up’ by confirmation the name of his uncle, the French King, Charles the Fair.
At the age of seven, Charles IV found himself deposited among his relatives at the French court, where he had his own private tutors. All at once, an extensive education, as well as to notable political and personal contacts were available to him. His friends included for example, the future Pope Clement VI. Last but not least, Charles brought back with him from Paris his first beloved wife, Blanche of Valois.
His all-round preparation for life continued in Luxembourg, on the family earldom, where the adolescent heir to the throne was raised by his authoritarian great uncle Baldwin of Luxembourg, Archbishop of Trier. Charles continued his studies of diplomacy and statecraft, added German language to French, Latin and Italian, as well as becoming fully conversant with courtly etiquette and knightly virtues. After many years, Charles eventually returned to Bohemia, in the autumn of 1333. Standing in for the absenting Head of State he served as Margrave of Moravia to administer the Czech Kingdom. In 1344 Charles achieved the elevation of the Prague bishopric to an Archbishopric, thus freeing the Czech State from under the Archbishop of Mainz. This was followed by his important election to the Head of the Holy Roman Empire in 1346. The Czech royal coronation took place in September 1347. Uplifting the Czech Přemyslid dynasty traditions, the monarch had commissioned the St Wenceslas Crown, which along with the scepter and orb become emblematic of the universal power of the King of Bohemia. Charles chose Prague as his capital residence, making the Czech State the main power base of the Luxembourgs. In April 1355, Charles attained his Imperial coronation in Rome, formally instating him as the secular head of Christendom. Founding of the University in Prague in 1348, was the next step by which the monarch strengthened Prague’s significance.
Today, Charles IV is regarded as a capable instigator-founder and developer, whose architectural efforts are evident in many places. Great care and considerable sums were expended by him on the construction of churches and monasteries. Charles IV died at the age of 62, on 29th November 1378. Even his lavish funeral, accompanied by impressive ceremonials, gave witness to the political power of one of Europe’s most noteworthy rulers.
The exhibition will be open until September 25, 2016 and will move then to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nurnberg.