In contrast to the crown jewels of many other European empires or royalty, the Czech crown jewels cannot be found on public display in a museum. On the contrary, for much of the time they are kept in a carefully protected room deep in the bowels of Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral. The remains of Czech kings are kept inside as well as valuable Christian relics, all stored in a treasury secured with seven locks. In fact, they only rarely see the light of day, and only for short periods of time.
The Czech Crown Jewels include the Crown of Saint Wenceslas (Svatováclavská koruna), the royal orb and sceptre, the coronation vestments of the Bohemian kings, the gold reliquary cross, and St. Wenceslas’ sword.
The crown is named and dedicated after the Patron Saint Wenceslas I of the Premyslids dynasty of Bohemia. The crown has an unusual design, with vertical fleurs-de-lis standing at the front, back and sides. Made from gold and precious stones, its weight is 2.475g. It was made for King Charles IV in 1346. Since 1867 it has been stored in St. Vitus Cathedral of Prague Castle.
After 1918 and the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic the Coronation Jewels ceased to serve their original function, but remained important as symbols of national independence and statehood. According to the ancient tradition and regulations laid down by Charles the Fourth in the 14th century, the jewels are exhibited only to mark special occasions (last time in 2008).
The St. Wenceslas Crown wrought of extremely pure gold, 21 to 22 carat (88 to 92 %), decorated with precious stones and pearls. It contains a total of 19 sapphires, 44 spinels, 1 ruby, 30 emeralds and 20 pearls. Some of these stones are the biggest in the world.
An ancient Czech legend says that any usurper who places the crown on his head is doomed to die within a year. In the eyes of some this was confirmed during World War II when Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi governor of the puppet Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia secretly wore them believing himself to be a great king, and was assassinated less than a year later by the Czech underground.