Statuary of the Holy Crucifix and Calvary
This sculpture is one of the most historically interesting sculptures on the bridge, which gradually gained its present appearance throughout many centuries. The original wooden crucifix was installed at this place soon after 1361 and probably destroyed by the Hussites in 1419. A new crucifix with a wooden corpus was erected in 1629 but was severely damaged by the Swedes towards the end of the Thirty Years' War. The remnants of this crucifix can be found in the lapidarium of the National Museum in Prague. This was replaced by another wooden Calvary which, in turn, was replaced with a metal version in 1657. Bought in Dresden, this crucifix was originally made in 1629 by H. Hillger based upon a design by W. E. Brohn. In 1666, two lead figures were added, but these were replaced in 1861 by the present sandstone statues by Emanuel Max, portraying the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist.
The golden Hebrew text on the crucifix was added in 1696. In 1696, the Prague authorities accused a local Jewish leader, one Elias Backoffen, of blasphemy. As his punishment he was ordered to raise the funds for purchasing of gold-plated Hebrew letters, placed around the head of the statue, spelling out "Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord of Hosts," the Kedusha from the Hebrew prayer and originating in the vision from the Book of Isaiah. The inscription was a symbolic humiliation and degradation of Prague Jews, forcing them to pay for a set of golden letters referring to God and hung around the neck of the statue of Christ (information from Steven Plaut, The "Vav" from the Charles Bridge). A bronze tablet with explanatory text in Czech, English and Hebrew was mounted under the statue by the City of Prague in 2000. The tablet's placement came after an American Rabbi, Ronald Brown of Temple Beth Am in Merrick, New York was passing over the bridge and noted the possibly offensive nature of the placing of the text. Upon a direct request to the mayor, the tablet was soon placed to the side of the statue.
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