The Přemyslid Cross from Jihlava.

One of the exceptionally valuable Gothic monuments in the Czech Republic, the so-called Přemyslid Crucifix, was placed somewhat forgotten in a glass case on one of the side altars of the Church of St. Ignatius in Jihlava until the early 1990s. Only after the restoration of monastic life and the return of the Premonstratensians to Jihlava was it decided by them to have this monument professionally restored. This took place in the years 1994–1997 exclusively from the financial resources of the Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov. After the restoration, the Crucifix was placed in the premises of the treasury of the Strahov Gallery, where an exhibition on its history and restoration was held. Since then, it has been temporarily placed there, mainly for conservation reasons, as a suitable environment has not yet been found in any of the Catholic churches in Jihlava that would be suitable for this rare monument.

The Premyslid cross
The Premyslid cross located in the treasury space of the Strahov Gallery.

The History of the Premyslid Cross

The Premyslid Cross, also known as the Premyslid Crucifix, has a tumultuous history. This type of crucifix, also referred to as the mystical crucifix, Crucifixus dolorosum, forked cross, or plague cross, belongs to a remarkable group of Gothic crosses shaped like the letter Y. This style spread across Europe no later than the mid-13th century. It can be found in Italy, particularly in central and northern regions like Tuscany and sporadically in the southern parts of the Apennine Peninsula (e.g., Trapani and Palermo in Sicily), on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea (Kotor, Split, Piran), in today's Austria, more commonly in the Rhineland-Westphalia regions, and to some extent in France and Spain. In the Czech lands, the Jihlava cross holds a unique position, as a similar crucifix is not found elsewhere in the local setting.

This crucifix is a phenomenon of European scale, whose typology surpasses the commonly known depictions of the Crucified. The theme of the dying Savior here reaches the very limits of embodying suffering. The sculptor of the Jihlava crucifix, like the creators of similar types of crosses, chose a highly expressive style where the body of Jesus Christ is seen convulsing at the moment of death. His face expresses more than unimaginable pain. The body does not rest on a traditional right-angled construction but on a stylized Tree of Life (lignum vitae), symbolizing the continuation of life after Christ's death.

The origin of the Jihlava crucifix remains shrouded in mystery. It was most likely made for the Dominican monastery in Jihlava, whose Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross began construction in 1247. According to some current scholars, the roots of this type of crucifix might stem from the Italian Dominican setting and are related to the flagellant movement of the second half of the 13th century. As is well-known, the flagellant movement was quickly declared heretical and harshly suppressed, making a direct connection to the Jihlava crucifix unlikely. Other theories suggest the crucifix might have originated in the Rhineland, specifically around the crucifix in the St. Maria Kapitol in Cologne. However, recent studies indicate that in the first two decades of the 14th century in the Rhineland, there was no German artist who made this type of sculptures, but rather, it was likely Italian sculptors who either delivered these crucifixes to the Rhineland or came from Italy to create them there. This theory is further supported by the material of the cross, poplar wood, which was commonly used by Italian artists for both panel paintings and sculptures.

Nevertheless, it remains a fact that the Italian Dominican milieu, which had been established in Jihlava since around 1250, particularly promoted the ideas of crucifixi dolorosi in the latter half of the 13th century, developing the theses of Saint Thomas Aquinas. After the reforms of 1781, the Jihlava Dominicans left their original monastery and moved to a neighboring Jesuit monastery complex. At that time, the crucifix was likely moved to a glass altar in the left side aisle of St. Ignatius Church. At the same time, its appearance was altered, both by new polychrome and the addition of a metal halo. When the spiritual administration of the parish at St. James in Jihlava was returned to the Premonstratensians in 1990, who have been active in the local parish since the 13th century, they also resumed care for St. Ignatius Church, which is subordinate to the St. James parish.

Chronology After 1990

1994 – 1997: The crucifix was removed in 1994 from the Baroque glass cabinet in St. Ignatius Church in Jihlava for restoration due to its critically deteriorated condition (widespread damage by wood-eating insects, loose polychrome). The restoration was carried out by some of the best Czech restorers, academic painters Mojmír and Radana Hamsík. They performed petrification, removed newer polychromes, and dismantled Baroque additions (metal rays, etc.).

All financing of the restoration work, totaling more than 300,000 Czech crowns, was provided exclusively by the Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov.

1998: The restored Crucifix was placed in the treasury of the Strahov Gallery, where an exhibition about its restoration was held. On this occasion, a comprehensive catalog titled *Premyslid Crucifix and Its Era* was published, edited by Ivana Kyzourová. The placement of the relic was carried out in accordance with the statement from the Brno Heritage Institute dated January 7, 1998, and the consent of the Jihlava District Office dated January 22, 1998.

After the completion of the restoration works, a discussion ensued about the permanent placement of this extraordinary Gothic sculpture. During the final inspection, the heritage care representative requested monitoring of the climate in which the restored sculpture would be located. The Jihlava District Office then suggested in its statement that in the future (after the exhibition concludes) it should be placed either in St. Ignatius Church or, if a suitable protection regime is secured, in another church in Jihlava.

This opinion was contested by the expert community, represented by restorers and scientific institutions. Dr. Arthur Saliger, a European expert on Gothic art from the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere and former conservator of the Vienna archdiocese and director of the Cathedral Museum at St. Stephen’s, specifically advised against reinstalling the original in a church setting.

Professors Dr. Homolka and Dr. Hlobil, along with other representatives of Czech art history, expressed similar views. The restorers of the Premyslid Crucifix also voiced their concerns. The proposal regarding the climatic conditions by the restorers from May 1999 states that poplar wood with Gothic polychrome is sensitive to climate changes. Fluctuations in temperature cause it to swell and shrink, leading to cracking and potentially to the polychrome flaking off. It is not possible to ensure stable climatic conditions in church spaces, and such significant works are more suitably placed in gallery-type exhibitions (Relative humidity around 50 – 60%, temperature around 19°C).

February 1999: Notable Austrian art historian and former director of the Archdiocesan and Cathedral Museum at St. Stephen's Dome in Vienna, Prof. Arthur Saliger, expressed his views on the intended placement of the Crucifix back in Jihlava. He communicated his negative opinion to the head of the regional development department at the Jihlava District Office, RNDr. Petr Pospíchal (texts are available for download) and also conveyed it to the then-director of the Heritage Institute in Brno, PhDr. Miloslav Housovský. Subsequently, from March 1999 to May 2000, the microclimate in St. Ignatius and St. James Churches was measured, confirming very poor climatic conditions for the planned re-placement.

2009: In connection with the interior renovation of St. James Church in Jihlava, the possibility of returning the crucifix to Jihlava and installing the original sculpture in St. James Church was considered. Therefore, on April 28, 2009, under § 18 para. 2 of the Heritage Care Act 20/1987 Coll., a request was submitted to the Vysočina Regional Office for the permanent relocation of the NKP Premyslid Crucifix, this time to St. James Church. The Regional Office convened a meeting on May 28, 2009, after which it issued a resolution requesting an objective assessment of the climatic conditions both at the original location, i.e., the Baroque cabinet in the side chapel of St. Ignatius Church, and in the proposed new location in the side aisle of St. James Church, thus measuring for 18 months and thereby suspending the administrative proceedings about the permanent relocation.

February 8, 2010: On February 8, 2010, the Czech government declared the Premyslid Crucifix a national cultural monument, effective from July 1, 2010 (register number 90013/37-26582). This regulation partially changed the system of heritage protection, primarily that binding opinions concerning this monument are

 no longer issued by the relevant municipality, here the City Hall of Jihlava, but by the Regional Office, which also supervises the NKP heritage protection.

June 15, 2011: Based on the results of measurements carried out over 20 months, and following consultation with restorer Mrs. Radana Hamsíková and the culture department of the Jihlava Regional Office, a request was made to withdraw the application due to persisting unsuitable conditions (significant fluctuations in relative humidity up to 90% RH), the text is available for download. Mrs. Radana Hamsíková's statement on the relocation is also attached.

2013: For the reasons mentioned above, discussions with restorers about the possibility of creating a facsimile were held. Its production was then carried out by the AVU sculpture restoration studio in Prague under the direction of Prof. Siegl, in the form of a sculptural cast from synthetic resin, with polychrome created by Mrs. R. Hamsíková, who restored the original sculpture. This successful cast, also acclaimed by international restorers, was subsequently placed in St. James Church in Jihlava. The costs of producing the facsimile, including its transport and installation, reached nearly 400,000 Czech crowns and were again exclusively financed by the Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov.

2017: At the meeting of the 23rd City Council of Jihlava on November 6, 2017, a city representative raised the request for the return of the Premyslid Crucifix to Jihlava. In resolution 369/17, the council asked the mayor of the city to "actively participate in the return of the Jihlava national cultural monument, the Premyslid Cross, back to Jihlava. Specifically, to initiate, start, and lead discussions in this spirit with the Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov and the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, and to regularly provide information on this matter to the city council, according to the appendix and justification."

The statutory representative of the parish also gave his statement on the matter, the text of his statement is in the appendix of the article.


The location of the Jihlava Crucifix in the altar of the side chapel in St. Ignatius Church – the situation before 1994.
Condition before restoration.
Detail of the corpus during restoration.
Detail of the polychrome layers during restoration.
Making a facsimile of the Premyslid Crucifix.
Trial installation of the Premyslid Crucifix facsimile in St. James Church in Jihlava.
Installation of the facsimile.
Facsimile in St. James Church in Jihlava.