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Malý Rohozec - Na Pískách

Josef Pekař the Historian

The name Josef Pekař is firmly associated with historical science. After graduating from grammar school in Mladá Boleslav, he joined Charles University in 1888, which became his work haven for the rest of his life. Here he was influenced especially by the historian Jaroslav Goll (1846-1929), whose successor he gradually became. Thanks to Goll, he was involved in on-going disputes over the authenticity of the so-called RKZ Manuscripts, on the side of the opponents of their authenticity. Under the leadership of his teachers Goll and Antonín Rezek (1853-1909), he prepared a pioneering work about Albrecht of Valdštejn, which became one of the most outstanding historical books of the turn of the 19th century.

During his several decades of professional activity, Pekař devoted himself to many topics. He was interested in the oldest medieval legends, and in the question of the importance of the Battle of White Mountain and of the reign of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I.  He also contributed two major works in the history of historiography, Jan Žižka and Kost Castle. In the first, he tried to show the Hussite commander as a medieval warrior with all the positives and negatives. In the second book, he sketched a picture of the lives of the people on the Kostnice estate after the Battle of White Mountain – both within and outside the castle, as it were.

“I have been madly in love with the castle since I was a student (forgive the ardent tone: I grew up in an atmosphere of the romantic) and this love has intensified in recent years as our Turnov team has established multiple contacts, both touristic and social, with Kost castle and the handmaid of the Kost estate, the delightful Sobotka. Then the trips to Kost castle began to alternate with visits to Jindřichův Hradec, to the old Černín archivist, Mr. Tischer. In his study I was given the opportunity to linger again and again on the Kost castle of the years 1637-1738 and to learn (in much detail) about the people and circumstances of the days long gone, over three generations. I soon found further ways to the Kost castle of olden days, from the 16th to the 19th centuries – and the result is this book.” Josef Pekař, Book of Kost Castle, 1909

Hrubá Skála and the dispute over the RKZ Manuscripts

The importance of the local landscape with its many castles and chateaux is irrefutable for Josef Pekař and it is also not neglected on this nature trail. In the early phase of Pekař’s career, Hrubá Skála played an important role, but it was not always called Hrubá Skála. The historian’s contribution to the dispute over the authenticity of the RKZ Manuscripts is associated with it.

At the time of the National Revival, Czech writers tried to contribute with their works to the awakening of the national spirit. The revivalists used every possible means to help achieve their goals, and based their literary work on anything that could contribute to the upsurge of national pride and the understanding of national continuity. However, there was one thing the revivalists were missing. Neighbouring nations had old legends about the bravery and valour of their nation, but the Czech nation lacked these legends at the point of time that was clearly turning towards national mythologies. So manuscripts describing the magnificent deeds of the Czech nation appeared suddenly at the notional peak of the Czech National Revival. Soon after the publication of these manuscripts, there were doubts about their authenticity, and in some sense the dispute over the manuscripts is still on-going.

In 1886, a controversy over the authenticity of the Králův Dvůr and Zelená Hora (RKZ) manuscripts began on the pages of the Athenaeum magazine. The storyline of the poem Beneš Heřmanov from the Králův Dvůr manuscript, which is set in our region, had already attracted Pekař while he was still at grammar school. Four years later, in the same periodical, his minor work Hrubá Skála: A contribution to historical topography and to the dispute over the Dvůr Králové  manuscript, appeared. The student in his fifth semester in the Faculty of Arts drew attention to himself with his brilliant formulation of the relatively simple argument proving that the castle was called ‘Skály’, not Hrubá Skála, until the 17th century. After some time he returned to the topic in the Philological Letters, where he published a more extensive essay entitled Hrubá Skála in the Dvůr Králové manuscript.

The Statue of St. Josef

The landscape of the Český Raj (Bohemian Paradise), like other Czech regions, is characterised by small sacred monuments situated along the roads, on the village greens and in the fields and meadows. As we stroll through the countryside, we will meet wayside shrines, sculptures of saints and conciliation crosses. These objects were usually built in memory of both happy and unfortunate events, or as an expression of thanks for averting misfortune or healing the sick. They were used to honour the dead and to reconcile property disputes. They often delimited land boundaries. First wooden and later stone wayside shrines have been documented in the Czech landscape since the 14th century. Their greatest expansion occurred in the Baroque period. Baroque man began to shape the landscape around him. By placing small architectural objects in the landscape, in the spirit of contemporary aesthetics and philosophy, he created its form and thus constructed a complex space with sacred, secular and natural elements. During this period, the cult of saints was established in Bohemia, among them St. Josef. Purportedly the oldest depiction of St. Josef in the Central European area dates from the 14th century, and is a part of the altar stone in the cathedral in Cologne. The popularity of this saint, Jesus’ foster father, for centuries, is confirmed by the popularity of the Christian name Josef. The patronage of St. Josef is really wide. All families, children and orphans consider him as their protector, as do, among craftsmen, carpenters, cabinet makers, lumberjacks and wheelwrights. Statues of him are therefore found quite often in mountain and foothill areas where woodworking provided a daily living.

The statue of St. Josef is one of the many monuments recalling the inception of folk stonemasons, who filled the landscape of the Český Raj with statues and crosses. They often stood at places of memorable events, intersections of now defunct roads or on commanding heights, like the one from where the Czech patron saint looks down over the broad region. The statue is attributed to the master mason Ignác Martinec (1784-1841) from Sestroňovice near Frýdštejn, who sculpted it in the 1820s. A similar relief of St. George, who is here on the pedestal, we can also find in Martinec’s sculpture of St. Josef in Malá Skála – Vranov. St. Josef with baby Jesus in his arms was one of the favourite statue subjects in the foothills region. He was not only one of the protectors of Bohemia, but also a patron saint of families and children, and, since he was a carpenter by trade, also of all craftsmen working with wood and with weaving looms.


Josef Pekař Lehrpfadkarte, Autor Jiří Lode (2020)

Professor Pekař in his Prague study (1934)

In the academic year 1931–1932 was prof. Josef Pekař elected as rector of Charles University  

In the photograph of Hrubá Skála Pekař also captured the former brewery located under the chateau

The large-scale painting The Slaughter of the Saxons under Hrubá Skála from 1895 is now housed in the Museum of the Bohemian Paradise in Turnov

A sculpture of St. Joseph from the workshop of the stonemason master Ignác Martinec (1784–1841) is located close to the Pekař´s native village Malý Rohozec

Location Na Pískách captured during  the era of collective farming