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The Archives of the Prague Castle

The archives originated in their present form as late as 1920, when the long-standing tradition of storing important state documents and other record in various places in the Castle was kept. Apart from the Crown Archives, the written materials of the Metropolitan Chapter attached to St. Vitus's Cathedral and of the Prague archbishopric as well as the archives of the courts and central institutions which had their seat here (for example, the Czech Chamber, the Court of Appeal, the Land Rolls, the governor's office and the Court Building Office have been kept at the Castle in the course of the centuries). The location of the archives has changed many times and on some occasions they were even removed from the Castle. Today a number of important documents is deposited in the State Central Archives.

The present Archives of Prague Castle concentrate written material and all documentation concerning the Castle, its history and research, building activity, repairs and maintenance. For example, invaluable documents concerning building activity are kept in the funds of the Royal Building Office (1540 - 1791, Court Building Office to 1860), the Castle Executive Office (1860 - 1918) and the Office of the President of the Republic (1918 - 1964). The funds of the Union for the Completion of St. Vitus's Cathedral is a source of information not only about the completion work proper, but also about the medieval parts of the cathedral and the finds made in the course of research or during the completion of the cathedral. The Plan Collection contains historic plans of the individual buildings and project documentation pertaining to recently completed reconstructions. Also filed is a number of unrealized projects. The new collections of documentary value are formed of films and television programmes concerning Prague Castle.

The library of the Metropolitan Chapter of St. Vitus's Cathedral, which contains many rare medieval manuscripts, often beautifully illuminated, old prints and music scores, is also in the care of the Archives of Prague Castle. Documents of historical value also form parts of the Archives of the Metropolitan Chapter attached to St. Vitus's Cathedral.

The History of the Metropolitan Chapter

The beginnings of the St. Vitus chapter can be seen in the collegium cleri attached to St. Vitus's Church at Prague Castle. This body was entrusted with the task of making all the necessary preparations for the establishment of a diocesan administration. Its endeavours culminated in 971 when through the mediation of his sister Mlada, the abbes of St. George's Convent, prince Boleslav II submitted to Pope John XIII a request concerning the founding of an episcopal seat in Prague, which was duly granted. Till that time Prague fell under the authority of the bishop of Regensburg, who was the suffragan of the Salzburg metropolis.

When in 973 Prague became an episcopal seat subordinated to the metropolitan of Mainz the previously mentioned collegium cleri of St. Vitus's became the chapter of the cathedral. The founding charter has not been preserved. However, names with the designation provost, dean, archdean, scholastic and canon of the Prague church appeared in historic documents already from the late 10th century.

Until the founding of Charles University in Prague the St. Vitus chapter was the administrator of the cathedral school. The teachers held the title of "Master" and their ranks included scholars of European renown. Due to its standard the school of St. Vitus's attracted students also from neighbouring countries. The chapter continued to fulfil its cultural and educational mission in later years. Through their activity many of its members contributed significantly to the development of the national culture and some also participated in the work of international institutions.

In 1344 the Prague diocese was raised to an archdiocese and the St. Vitus chapter became the metropolitan chapter. The status and activity of the metropolitan chapter also had to be adapted to the new organization of the church administration. This new situation is depicted in the oldest preserved written statutes of the chapter of 18 November, 1350.

The St. Vitus chapter continued to maintain contact with the Holy See and adminstered the archdiocese through the mediation of elected administrators also during the long period of vacancy of the archiepiscopal throne in the years 1421 to 1561. For this service it gained the designation "always loyal" and was granted numerous privileges. Providing they were not ordained bishops its provost and dean were granted the title of holy pronotary by the Holy See, other members of the chapter being granted the title of papal prelate.

As time passed the statutes of the chapter of 1350 were amended several times with various supplements and modifications in accordance with changing circumstances and new needs. In order that the activity of this oldest institution, unceasingly present in the history of the Czech state for more than one thousand years, might suitably correspond to the changes which came about in church live after the Seconnd Vatican Council and after the newly amended issue of the Codex of Ecclesiastic Law the chapter decided in the Christmas period of 1992 to amend its statutes again.

The metropolitan chapter consists of four preslatures (a provost, a dean, an archdean and a scholastic) and eight canonicates. The provost and the dean are elected, the other posts being filled on the basis of the lenght of the period of membership of the chapter. For the fulfilment of certain tasks the chapter elects four officials from its midst: a chancellor, an economist, a prefect for the library and archives and a prefect for the sacristy and choir. The archbishop of Prague places a member of the chapter in the service ofthe penitentiary and one of the canons can be appointed to the post of parish priest of the St. Vitus parish.

The Archive of the Metropolitan Chapter

One of the Czech oldest, largest and, according to the content, the most important Church archives are formed by the archives of the Metropolitan Chapter, the written documents by the prelates and canons and various institutions connected with the cathedral. The documents of the Prague bishopric and archbishopric, the archives of the chapter in Sadova and of some other churches in Prague make a part of these archives as well. Another part of the archives is formed by the documents and letters of various origin, what were in the latter half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries removed from the binding of the manuscript codices.

The oldest preserved original parchment document from the Archives of the Metropolitan Chapter dates in 1177. The most of the funds is dated up to the end of 18th century, only some of them come from the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

The owner of the archives is the Metropolitan Chapter of St. Vitus. The manuscripts and other documents compiled by Antonin Podlaha in the list Catalogus codicum manu scriptorum, qui in archivio capituli metropolitani Pragensis asservantur, Pragae 1923, were given under the protection of the Archives of Prague Castle in 1957.