Saturday, June 23, 2012

Prague Alchemy



The beautiful old city of Prague is rich in art, literature, music, architecture, and history. A few months before I arrived, a new museum, Speculum Alchemiae, opened. This museum is in an old building in the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) where, after some recent flooding, they discovered a lower level with a series of artifact-rich workrooms and two tunnels. One led to the Old Square (Staromestske Namesti) , the other to Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad). They provided a way for the alchemists who occupied the building to travel unseen to these two locations.

The entrance room to the museum is bright and airy.  You enter the museum proper through a doorway with a thick door, that when closed behind you leaves you feeling a very different energy. This room has been restored to the time of the alchemists with mostly reproductions and a few original pieces. There is a chandelier that has three masks that bring to mind the devil because they have horns. My guide told me they represent Abraham and the horns represent power. This chandelier is placed over the spot the alchemists believed was a vortex.

Chandelier Over Vortex

Close up of Abraham Representation

This bookcase has a small dragon carving on a lower shelf that when turned opens the bookcase revealing stairs that lead to a series of rooms with ovens and work tables and old glass beakers used by the alchemists. They found some bottles that still held an elixir. They had the elixir analyzed and have reproduced and sell in the front shop area as Elixir of Life. It has all the original ingredients except one, poppies. 

Bookcase that opens to a secret passage

One of the hidden workrooms in the lower level secret chambers

My guide was giving her first tour in English so she was testing her explanations on me. She did an excellent job, sometimes giving me clues to help her find the right English word. For example, the small carving that turned to open the case was a bit hard to see. She said it flies, it is from China, enough clues for me to provide her with the word "dragon" and for me to make out what the carving was.

The beautiful art at the beginning of the post was on the four corners of the wall in the main room. They represent the four classical elements. It brought to mind a favorite song of mine from Libana's A Circle is Cast album. If you are unfamiliar with Libana they are a women's group that often performs a cappella. The song is "The Earth, the Air, the Fire, the Water" that you can click here to enjoy.

This kind gentleman shared his Yorkie with me!


  1. I am captivated...swept away! Imagine the alchemists at work; this is like a scene from Harry Potter! Wow, Judy. Now I want to visit Prague. And thank you so much for introducing me to Libana. Fresh voices that speak to my heart.

  2. Prague was on my travel wish list for quite a while. I could easily visit again. This little gem of a museum was an unexpected delight. I'm glad you enjoy Libana; I love women's a cappella groups.