Ancient Gothic Manuscripts To Go On Display at Špilberk Castle

“Eliška Rejčka: Gift from the Middle Ages”, began yesterday and will last until 20 August. Photo credit: Muzeum města Brna, via Facebook.

Brno, June 2 (BD) – An exhibition of vanished Gothic manuscripts is to go on display at Špilberk Castle, for the first time in 240 years. The exhibition, “Eliška Rejčka: Gift from the Middle Ages”, began yesterday and will last until 20 August. The manuscripts were bought by Eliška Rejčka at her own expense, and dedicated to the Cistercian convent in Staré Brno, which marks its 700th anniversary this year. 

In 1323, the convent’s founder Eliška Rejčka managed to secure permission and financing for the formal establishment of the convent, and to start construction work on the complex of order buildings. The area of the monastery is still visually represented by the monumental Gothic basilica of the Virgin Mary, built from stone masonry, unusually for the Moravian environment. Throughout its existence, the monastery became a symbol of firm faith and salvation, and also an economic, cultural and educational centre. Due to its importance and wealth, the Aula Sanctae Mariae monastery was undoubtedly one of the most influential institutions of medieval Brno.

Apart from the building complex itself, few tangible items have been preserved from the time of Eliška Rejčka’s decision to found a new church. The unique set of manuscripts therefore stands out. After the dissolution of the monastery by Joseph II, six of the nine manuscripts ended up in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, two in the Rajhrad Monastery and one in the Moravian State Archives. 

The Viennese manuscripts have never left the Austrian capital since 1782. It was only on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the monastery that it was possible to carry out the logistically demanding loan of four specimens and transfer them to Brno, where they will be exhibited with their three Moravian counterparts. Visitors will thus be able to see most of the Gothic manuscripts from the original property of Eliška Rejčka

“Given the importance of the jubilee year of the foundation of the monastery, we decided to take on a very demanding mission – to obtain the original monastery manuscripts on loan from the Austrian National Library, which had not been available in the Czech lands since 1782,” explained Zbyněk Šolc, director of the Brno City Museum. “We managed to convince the Austrian side that we are able to comply with the strict parameters for exhibiting these handwritten jewels.”

Visitors will be able to admire the manuscripts in the specially designed rooms of the Baroque chapel. The exhibition will also have a special entrance from the Špilberk shop in the small courtyard. The text part of the exhibition will be located in the adjacent area “Under the tower”. 

At the exhibition, the manuscripts will be accompanied by a selection of archaeological finds from the Cistercian monastery in Owińské, near Poznań, where Eliška Rejčka spent her childhood. As a reminder of the younger destinies of the Stare Brno monastery, a baroque copy of the Palladium of the city of Brno will also be exhibited, i.e. the painting of the black madonna, which became a symbol of the Basilica of the Virgin Mary after the arrival of the barefoot Augustinian order in Staré Brno.

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