The City of Prague Museum

‘Wiehl’s’ Lattice

‘Wiehl’s’ Lattice

Main Building

1. 2. 2016 – 30. 4. 2016

The collection of metal lattices and smithery artworks of the City of Prague Museum contains a real gem, a latticed chapel (sacellum) from the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Strahov Monastery which between 1628 and 1811, with the exception of the war periods, enshrined the body of St Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensians. It is a primary work of smithery corresponding to the Renaissance tradition. There are forged circular-profile bars combined with motives of flat leaves and flowers. The beaten and cut motif of angel heads with wings, which was very favoured during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, was an essential element – it is visible on the part of the lattice panel of the door on display (MMP H V 1423/3). Lattices were quite commonly found in churches during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. They enclosed side chapels or were erected around tombstones.

The body of St Norbert of Xanten (1082–1134) was transferred from the Lutheran Magdeburg to Prague in 1627. At first, it was placed on the high altar of the church to be transferred in the above-mentioned latticed chapel in 1628. The latticed chapel was produced by Jakub Ernst, a burgher and locksmith of the Lesser Town of Prague; in accordance with the historical custom, the lattice was painted and gilded by the painter Hanuš Schlemüller. The chapel was located in the centre of the nave at the pulpit level. It had a square ground plan of about 240 cm and was about 340 cm high. As a result of the change of the church decoration in the mid-18th century, the chapel began to look obsolete and was removed in 1811. The remains of the saint were transferred back to the high altar and later in the side chapel, where they have remained to this day. For quite some time, parts of the dismantled latticed chapel were used as the railing in the house No. 161 on Úvoz Street at Hradčany. Then, the Prague antiquarian Chaura purchased the lattice to later sell it to the City of Prague Museum in 1898 where the chapel is registered as MMP H V 1426/1-14.

The engraving of Daniel Wussin, which was published in 1671 along with the treatise ‘Vita mors et translatio s. Norberti‘, is most likely the only pictorial source for the chapel history. The depiction of the forged elements, featured on the engraving, can be regarded as the author’s licence, yet not the actual lattice construction. As part of his efforts to renew the sacellum fragment, Antonín Wiehl (1846–1940), a member of the City Museum’s Committee and architect, used the engraving as an inspiration in 1905. The renewal process is documented in detail by the set of four drawings (MMP H 56.405 A–D). 

The photograph of the first exhibition of the ‘locksmith department’, which was only five years old back then, shows the location which was to be emptied to install the lattice; the current exhibits had to be moved. 

In 1905, the lattice was disassembled with the prospects of its future reassembly. Unfortunately, the project was never implemented, and the individual parts were scattered elsewhere. Yet, they were identified and joined together. In this process, the drawings by Antonín Wiehl played an essential role.

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