On Good Friday, an extraordinary exhibition of the holy nail begins in the Práchenský museum in Písek. The rare relic was discovered three years ago in the Milev Monastery. In the Middle Ages, people considered it to be the nail with which Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It will be exhibited for the first time and only until April 16.
At first glance, it just looks like an unsightly six-centimeter piece of iron. On closer inspection, however, the observer sees a small golden cross hammered into the nail on its wider side. A few centuries ago, people were clear – they associated the inconspicuous object with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. In the summer of 2020, researchers from the Naše historie association retrieved the nail from a secret hiding place in the north wall of the church of St. Giljí of the Premonstratensian monastery in Milevsko.
“In addition to ornaments made of gold and silver sheet metal, we discovered a nail marked with a golden cross in the cache. We thus managed to pick up an artifact that medieval society considered one of the rarest relics in the world,” said Pavel Břicháček from the West Bohemian Museum in Pilsen, head of the archaeological research at the time.
The decoration of the reliquary in which the nail was kept also confirms that this is an exceptional object, to which people in the past attributed supernatural properties. The oak box was painted with natural ultramarine, a color more valuable than gold to this day.
It was possible to date the find to the fourth century, when the cult of the Passion, i.e. Easter relics, was at its very beginning. It was at that time, in the year 325, that during the excavations in Jerusalem carried out on the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine, it was possible to find a cross identified as the one on which Christ was crucified. It became the main symbol of Christianity and its fragments are still preserved in many places in Europe.
The iron nail from Milevsko cannot yet be exhibited permanently. First of all, it is necessary to ensure microclimatic conditions, to complete analyzes and restoration work. The short-term exhibition is therefore an extraordinary opportunity to see the object with your own eyes. It will also include a public lecture planned for April 13.
“We are pleased that we can open the exhibition on Good Friday. Symbolically on the day of the biggest Christian holidays,” said Pavel Hroch, Deputy Governor of the South Bohemian Region for Culture. The region cooperates with the monastery in Milevsk and the Premonstratensians in Strahov in Prague on the exhibition. “We would like to build a museum as soon as possible, the dominant feature of which will be this particular nail,” added the deputy.
All parts of the Mileva reliquary, metal ornaments and the nail itself underwent conservation and analyzes in laboratories. Experts have carried out conservation, restoration and research work in the past two years as part of saving the exceptional cultural heritage of the monastery in Milevsko. All this under the auspices and with the financial support of the South Bohemian Region.
Holy nail from Milevsko
Extraordinary exhibition of the Powder Museum in Písek, April 7 to 16, 2023 An accompanying lecture for the public takes place on Thursday, April 13 from 4 p.m. in the museum’s lecture hall.
A secret passage ending in a medieval safe was discovered in the spring of 2020. Researchers and cavers first left Milevsko with the knowledge that the safe was empty. After it was painstakingly cleaned from the accumulation of many centuries of dirt, only human remains and small gold ornaments were found in it, which could have been part of a larger reliquary.
However, further investigation into the manner in which valuables were stored in similar coffers led to new research. “For greater safety, it was not enough to put the items on the floor. Sometimes there was a secret place in the safe where the treasure was hidden,” explained Petr Chotěbor from the Department of Historic Preservation of the Office of the President of the Republic. “Beneath the St. Vitus Cathedral, the valuables were, for example, in another tight space where it was only possible to insert a hand,” said the example.
The team of the Naše historie association, led by geoinformatics Jiří Šindelář, returned to the Milev monastery with Pilsen archaeologist Pavle Břicháček. The miniature camera then discovered other objects in the opening of the bent beam at the bottom of the safe dungeon. Upon picking up the contents of the stash, a seemingly ordinary piece of iron was among them.
Scientists have already managed to unravel a number of questions brought about by the find. But isn’t there another body hidden under the golden cross in the nail? What did the entire reliquary originally look like? What era does its content come from? When was it stashed? More mysteries are yet to be solved.
Video: The way to the secret vault of the monastery in Milevsko
The path to the vault of the Milevsko Monastery | Video: Jakub Zuzánek
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