Bořivoj Nechvátal

* 1935

  • “In the beginning they hadn’t yet enforced the standards that appeared later, in the Fifties. History was a strange subject, I studied with no trouble at all. My sister, who was a much better student, was not accepted to grammar school and had to study it in the evenings. She met Václav Havel there. She attended the same grammar school in Štěpánská [Street] as he did. As a member of the bourgeoisie, he wasn’t allowed to attend grammar school either.”

  • “I studied archaeology, a ‘single-subject history’. Back then the admissions committee included Professor Filip, who was later one of the few academics without Party membership. He invited me to his seminars, but I wasn’t interested in prehistory much. But then I started diligently attending his seminars, and it was he who later chose me for the survey in Vyšehrad. Through the whole course of my studies - some twenty-five people undertook the four or five years - we attended his seminars. He gave us a motivation and an appreciation of our field. That was because Professor Filip was an excellent teacher, who also isolated his students from the rest of the world. So when we finished our studies at the age of twenty-four, we were considered fully-fledged scientists.”

  • “The first weeks and months of fieldwork, I thought it was a hopeless case because everything was already rebuilt there with Baroque fortifications. But in the very first year we found the foundations of a chancel by the eastern gate. Initially, I thought they were the foundations of a canon’s residence. But we later found that was not the case. The foundations were built in the same direction as the present-day Church of Sts Peter and Paul, and at the same time we were digging up this basilica. After extensive surveys, which lasted until 1991, we found that it was one of the largest sacred structure of the Pre-Hussite Era. It measured an impressive 110 metres in length. The central part contained a Romanesque basilica of the first Czech king, Vratislaus.”

  • “[Q: I have to ask about the Old Czech Legends and the mentions of Vyšehrad they contain. That is, Horymír, the Maiden War, Bivoj...] Horymír and Bivoj are in the chronicle of Václav Hájek of Libočany, who embellished his historical accounts with a myriad things about Vyšehrad with that he wanted to be appointed the canon of Vyšehrad, and yet he was merely administrator of the deanery. Otherwise, the first mention of Vyšehrad comes from 1002, which is a report that Prince Jaromír was ambushed by the Vršovites at Velíz near Beroun and that his faithful servant took him to Vyšehrad. That’s actually the first mention of Vyšehrad itself. The interesting thing is that the old Prokopian, Wenceslausian, and Adalbertian legends make no mention of Vyšehrad at all. Until 1002. Then in 1003, 1004, when Bohemia was briefly conquered by the armies of the Polish prince and king Boleslaus the Brave. The report from the time - which is found in other, West German chronicles - states that the ringing of a bell in Vyšehrad signalled the push to drive the Poles out of Prague and out of Bohemia. That shows that there must have already been one or two sacred structures here, the beginnings of which we have no clear information about, but the central Byzantine central-plan structure may have been one of them.”

  • “We were surprised to find that we had a Byzantine structure. We managed to obtain funding from the city council and from the Vyšehrad Chapter, so within about three weeks in 2014 we managed to uncover the base of the eastern apse. Now we have the ground plan of two thirds of the building. So this is giving us a new perspective on the oldest architecture of Přemyslid Bohemia. What it means is that we need to revise the standing approach as one-sided, because we have a Byzantine building here. Even if we allowed for the possibility that it was, perhaps, never fully completed, the very intent of the building implicates a much more complex beginning of Czech architecture in the tenth century. Romanesque structures - we can say we know a bit about that - but suddenly we have Byzantium here, and that’s big. Great Moravia has structures of a Western style, rotundas and basilicas, and suddenly, here we have a cross-plan church, which is something inimitable. Its importance exceeds our knowledge. The discovery was even reported by American television at the time, which surprised us a lot, to think it had such a reach.”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Praha Eye Direct, 10.10.2016

    délka: 01:57:56
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Memory of nations (in co-production with Czech television)
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

Archaeology shows that we still don’t know our past

Nechvátal Bořivoj 2017
Nechvátal Bořivoj 2017
zdroj: Post Bellum

Bořivoj Nechvátal was born on 4 January 1935 in Berlin, where his father worked at the Czechoslovak consulate. When Czechoslovakia was occupied in 1939, the family moved to Střešovice in Prague, where the witness lives to this day. He began to take an interest in history as a child, when he read stories of old mythology. In 1953 he completed grammar school and then enrolled at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague, where he studied history and prehistory. After graduating in 1958 he was employed at the Archaeological Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (AI CSAS). He conducted various archaeological rescue operations and then numerous extensive archaeological and historical surveys throughout the country. For example, in the years 1963-1968 he studied a large burial site in Radomyšl. In 1966 the Director of the AI CSAS put him in charge of an archaeological survey in Vyšehrad, which he ended up devoting nearly fifty years of his life to. In 1968 he discovered the foundations of one of the largest sacred structures in the vicinity of the present-day Church of Sts Peter and Paul, and further research in 2011-2014 with his colleague Ladislav Varadzin showed that this building was of Byzantine origin, which is utterly incongruent with current knowledge of Czech history. In 1990 he co-founded the Vyšehrad Society under the Vyšehrad Chapter. He has published a number of academic treatises and has lectured to the public.