A large number of the medieval crowns from Central Europe have gone missing over the years. These objects get snatched up and melted down by Prussians–like the crown of Bolesław–or they surreptitiously vanish from history forever like the beautiful crown of Zvonimir. Even the pieces that survive, such as the famous crown of St. Stephen, tend to go on strange adventures and end up in the hands of Jimmy Carter.
Not so the ancient crown of Saint Wenceslas, which was used in the coronation ceremonies for the kings of Bohemia. That crown is locked up tight in a secret chamber in a secret chapel in the huge cathedral of Saint Vitus. Seven Czech high officials possess keys—all of which must be used together. Perhaps it is well that the crown is locked up so tightly—it is said to lie under a magic curse.
The crown was made in 1347 for the eleventh king of Bohemia (and Holy Roman Emperor) Charles IV. It is wrought of extremely pure gold and decorated with 19 sapphires, 44 spinels, 1 ruby, 30 emeralds and 20 pearls. Charles dedicated the crown to Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, and it is believed the Saint cannot abide any usurper to wear the crown (Saint Wenceslas was presumed to harbor a grudge about usurpers, having been murdered for a crown by his own brother). Allegedly the Saint will smite down any unworthy soul who dons the crown within a year after he puts it on (the usurper that is—not Saint Wenceslas).It is rumored that Reinhard Heydrich, AKA “The Hangman”, the ruthless Nazi official in charge of the annexed portions of Czechoslovakia (which included St. Vitus Cathedral) could not risk the allure of the crown and secretly placed it on his head during a conqueror’s tour of St. Wenceslas Chapel. Heydrich was a favorite of Hitler’s who was heard to remark “We will Germanize the Czech vermin.” But he didn’t have much of a chance for Germanizing anyone–he was mortally wounded by British-trained Czech commandos in the awesomely named “Operation Anthropoid” less than a year after his tour of St. Vitus—a colorful and lurid tale for a colorful and lurid treasure.