National Monument Mausoleum and Museum
The National Monument used to be a mausoleum and is now a museum that crowns Vitkov Hill in Prague. The gigantic equestrian statue of Jan Zizka stands in front of the National Monument. The permanent exhibition in the museum highlights important historical events of the twentieth century. During the Communist era the monument was also a mausoleum. The embalmed body of the leader of the Communist party, Klement Gottwald, lay here from 1953 to 1962. You can visit the control room where humidity and temperature were closely monitored so that the embalmed body would not decompose. The interior of the National Monument is impressive with beautiful mosaics, an abundance of marble and huge halls.
Mausoleum and Museum in the National Monument
The permanent exhibition ‘Crossroads of Czech and Czechoslovak Statehood’ shows the most important milestones in the history of the twentieth century, a century characterized by remarkable and ideological changes.
The exhibition focuses on five points
1. establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918
2. the Munich Convention in 1938 and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia
3. re-establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1945 and the communist coup d’état three years later
4. establishment of the Czechoslovak Federation in 1968
5. fall of communism in 1989
Permanent Exhibition in the National Monument
The permanent exhibition is presented with multimedia and contains important documents such as the last letters of Milada Horakova and Heliodor Pika and also some personal belongings of Jan Palach.
Horakova was arrested in September 1949 for allegedly leading a non-existent illegal group that would overthrow the communist regime. Her conviction was one of the largest political show trials in communist Czechoslovakia. She was convicted and executed in 1950. Heliodor Pika was a Czechoslovak army officer. He was also executed by the communist regime after a show trial. Jan Palach was a student who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest against the Russian occupation and the lack of democracy in what was then Czechoslovakia.
The Gottwald Mausoleum
Klement Gottwald was a Czechoslovak communist politician and the leader of the Czechoslovak Communists from 1929 -1953. He was the first leader of Communist Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1953. After his death in 1953, the Central Committee showcased the embalmed body of Klement Gottwald in the Mausoleum, part of the National Monument. Technical facilities were established in the underground rooms: the control room, an electronically controlled device to lift the coffin from the underground niche, special lighting and a control room for doctors and nurses to perform the medical procedures as stated in the embalming protocol. The temperature had to be a constant 16°C and humidity 80%. A special air circulation system ensured that the conditions remained perfect so that the body would not decompose.
Klement Gottwald as an Attraction
Klement Gottwald’s body lay in a sarcophagus which was surrounded by a guard of honor. The body was transferred to the control room every morning by a hydraulic system for a medical check-up. The mausoleum opened on 5 December 1953, and each year some 200,000 visitors came to show respect to their former leader. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Gottwald’s body was cremated and interred in the communal grave of the Communist Party in the Olsany cemetery in Prague.
How to get there
Take metro Red line C to Florenc station. The equestrian statue and the National Monument is a short walk from her or take buses no 207 or 133 from Florenc to Tachovskeho namesti and then straight up the hill.
from 1 April to 31 October:
Monday–Tuesday: closed, Wednesday–Sunday: 10.00–18.00 hours
from 1 November to 31 March:
Monday–Wednesday: closed, Thursday–Sunday: 10.00-18.00 hours
Equestrian Statue of Jan Zizka atop Vitkov Hill