I spent the last week in Prague, Czech Republic to attend the 15th Global Conference: Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness. I was a presenter in the first panel, presenting a paper titled: Dark Side of a Hero: The Villain in the Role of the Protagonist. The conference was excellent and inter-disciplinary in nature, featuring papers on everything from fictitious villains such as the Wicked Witch of the West, to a panel of speakers who spent three weeks in Rwanda researching the lasting impact of Genocide, to a creative piece on the impact of war. Each speaker brought something truly unique to the conference from an international community, as over 11 different countries were represented this year from numerous disciplines of study. It was my second time attending the Evil conference and I can truly say it is one of the more fun conferences I have had the pleasure of attending.
Prague itself was amazing! The city was beautiful; one could hardly turn a corner without seeing a magnificent Gothic or Baroque building. This was found on everything from the National Museum to the casual restaurant and offered amazing views of absolutely gorgeous buildings. However, for me personally, the highlights were the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, just outside of Prague and the Strahov Monastery in the city.
The Ossuary, also known as the Kostnice Sedlci. It is a small Roman Catholic Chapel and contains approximately 40,000 human bones.
According to my tour guide, the monks started gathering bones from the cemetery surrounding the chapel in the early 1500s. From these bones, they created six pyramids. They did so as a demonstration of equality – to show that, in the end, all people end up exactly the same. Then, in the 1870s, a man by the name of Frantisek Rint was hired to rearrange some of the bones into decorations which include a chandelier, candle holders and the family crest of the Schwarzenberg family.
It was both thrilling and a little surreal to stand within the chapel. I felt a great sense of reverence standing among those piles of indistinguishable bones and I would highly recommend anyone who has the chance to visit the Ossuary.
The tour I took also included a visit to the Church of St. Barbara which was one of the best examples of Gothic architecture I have seen to date. From the towering arches to the numerous painted windows it was both intimidating and awe-inspiring. A walk around the church lead to a bridge lined with statutes intended to be Kutna Hora’s answer to the Charles IV Bridge in Prague.
The next day, I went to the Strahov Monastery which was equally amazing. Its library, featuring both a Theological and Philosophical Hall, was recently ranked among the top libraries in the world, and for good reason. In addition to an impressive collection of books, some of which date as far back as the 1200s, the ceiling of the library is what I can only describe as breath-taking. Housing over 18,000 theological and over 40,000 philosophical texts, the two halls are painted with various depictions of what they represent, with the Theological Hall including depictions of scenes from the Bible, from Adam and Eve to Jesus while the Philosophical Hall begins with scenes from Greek mythology to depictions of famous philosophers.
It reminded me of work I had seen in the Sistine Chapel in terms of both beauty and history. The layout of the books, particularly in the Theological Hall, really reminded me of the Old Library at Trinity College. I was also fortunate enough to have enjoyed dinner there which was excellent and served with wine and beer from the monastery’s own winery and brewery.
Overall, the trip was excellent and I enjoyed both the conference and the city. It was a great experience and I look forward to the possibility of returning for next year’s conference. For any who might be interested, check out the conferences hosted by Interdisciplinary at: http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/