The Land of Stories:

Monthly Highlights of Local Lore

 

In the early 15th century, the Kingdom of Bohemia was cast into a period of uncertainty. Amidst a papal schism, the Church’s ever-present stranglehold on the populace began to wane, and whispers of heretical ideologies and occult practices began to take form. Superstition found its way back into daily life, as the diminished trust in the Church left an increasingly lost populace desperate for answers to life’s mysteries. 

 

One night, when those whispers and doubts grew to a fevered pitch, the subjects of the kingdom found themselves plucked from the shroud of night by a celestial body streaking across the sky, casting an eerie green glow on every surface and face. Grumblings began to spread about what wicked portents this event promised, only to be quickly quashed by a piercing scream in the night coming from Prague Castle. The Archbishop had died.

 

In the immediate aftermath, many of the Church’s congregants suggested that the passing comet was a judgement passed down from the heavens. Others began to mourn and idolize the Archbishop. All the while, officials within the Church seized influence where they could, attempting to establish themselves within the new vacuum of power.

 

Research has shown that not only were astronomical events like these occurring, they were observed in various locations and times throughout the known world. Some of the earliest accounts date back to ancient Greece, 466 B.C., where a “huge fiery body” was seen flying overhead. Similar accounts have turned up in Babylon, Rome, and Han Dynasty China. Lending more credence to the theories of bad portents, these events often coincided with the death of a powerful or important figure. Attila the Hun’s defeat at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451 and the downfall of the English King Harold II in 1066 are two examples of this belief in action.

 

Nevertheless, without any corroborating evidence or primary sources, these events have essentially been relegated to the realm of folklore; tales and fables passed down through oral tradition. In fact, records indicate that the seat of power simply remained vacant from 1421 to 1561, as if the Archbishop had never existed. Thus, the story of this verdant celestial visitor remains a mystery, and the search for answers proceeds ever forward.

Depiction of Halley's Comet of 1066  in the Bayeux Tapestry

Painting of the comet of 1532

(Credit: Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)

Projects

 

The Prague Tunnel Network

 

Prague’s hidden tunnels are something of a curiosity, and their story is one that revolves around privilege and secrecy throughout many centuries. Records indicate that the tunnels date back to the 11th century, when they served as a backdrop for a great variety of activities, of which most, but definitely not all, were sanctioned. 

 

In addition to providing walkable corridors between many of Prague’s landmarks, such as Prague Castle, the Old Town Hall, and the Barracks, the tunnels were also home to some more clandestine activities, including shady deals between information brokers, secure money storage out of the eyes of the authorities, and even alchemical experimentation. Indeed, in the 16th century under the rule of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, himself a fan of oddities and the occult, the alchemical and sorcerous arts came into popularity. One of the underground chambers held an alchemical laboratory, where experiments could be conducted under his patronage without worry of punishment or scrutiny. It is said that this lab even connected to a passage that led out into a forest on the outskirts of the city, serving as an escape route if circumstances necessitated it.

 

Records of these tunnels mysteriously cease sometime after the 17th century, and researchers are not sure whether these tunnels exist today. Some accounts claim that the entrances were filled in long ago, but even if that is not the case, the passages could have collapsed as a result of the 1945 bombing of Prague, which destroyed many houses, monuments, and historical landmarks. A great deal of people dismiss these tunnels as being entirely fictional, while others believe that they are still very much in use, claiming to witness strange rituals carried out by shadowy figures in the night. 

 

Naturally, until these reports can be confirmed, they remain in the realm of hearsay and opinion. Over the years, the Koschei Society has led expeditions to scour every street, alley, and back road the city has to offer, and though we have learned much about the city itself and its surrounding areas, we have yet to discover more about the tunnels themselves. Nonetheless, we remain steadfast in our effort to learn more about these strange passageways, and will continue our search until the truth is unveiled.

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