Hogwarts of our greats: Historical Puritanism also came to Moravia

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A few years ago, I took a group of Finnish customers to the machine tool factory (TOS) in Hulín. In the morning, I picked them up at the Octárna hotel in Kroměříž, and on the way to Hulín we talked about Kroměříž, which they had visited the previous day in the afternoon. An elderly lady, who was enthusiastic about the beauty of the city, asked me why Kroměříž doesn’t have medieval historical streets like, for example, in Prague. So I explained to her that Kroměříž was completely destroyed during the Swedish raid in 1643, when about 3% of the inhabitants survived the conquest of the city, so today’s appearance of the city is modern. There was silence in the car for a while, then the lady explained to me that their ancestors probably also came here to conquer Kroměříž, because the Nordic nations were united under Swedish command, which of course I didn’t know…

It is true that when one walks around Gothenburg and sees larger-than-life equestrian statues of the Swedish kings who sent their troops to conquer our countries, it is not a very pleasant feeling. However, should we avoid cultural and economic contacts with the Nordic countries even today in Kroměříž because of the then Swedish, Finnish and Danish participation in that massacre? Such a question occurred to me when I read about the arguments against the placement of the statue of Archbishop Karl of Lichtenstein-Castelcorn, based on the fact that he supported and did not stop the trials of the satanic sect in Šumperska. The topic is now reopened by Martin Uhlíř in Respekt and also mentions the contradictions between historians about the role of Archbishop Karel.

I think this is an exemplary example of historical Puritanism. It is partly an imported matter. In America, some people want to tear down statues of Abraham Lincoln. Did he fight against slavery? Yes! But he also declared that blacks must not have the right to vote. So if we do a historical update to today’s conditions, he was actually a racist. Away with his statues! Or not really?

We have a statue of Jan Amos Comenius in Kroměříž, who, like many other educated people of the time, was also a successful cartographer. In 1627, he prepared a map of the Margrave of Moravia, Moravia marchionatus, for the former regional governor Ladislav Velen from Žerotín, for use in the invasion of Northern troops into Moravia. So should we tear down his statue in Kroměříž just because he probably had a hand in the conquest and massacre of our city?

What about Masaryk? If, from today’s point of view, we were to evaluate the strangeness during the presidential elections of the First Republic or his influence on politics with secret financial funds, how would it turn out? Are these reasons not to respect TGM as the founder of our modern independent state? Should this lead to the removal of his Kroměříž statue and the renaming of the square that bears his name today?

However, anyone who assumes public office and accepts responsibility can rightfully be criticized. Because we are not perfect. And if we removed the statues of everyone who messed up or didn’t intervene when they could, we might be left with some statues of saints. Historical puritanism is above all somewhat childish, immature. After all, we often cannot prevent a mistake or wrongdoing either by our contemporaries or by ourselves. What doctor can in good conscience remember all his diagnoses and operations as successful? And which plumber is proud of every bathroom? Who among us has not messed something up in life? “He that is without sin, cast the first stone,” said Jesus to the people who wanted to stone the adulterous woman.

When a similar debate broke out in the US some time ago, law professor and rabbi Michael J. Broyde argued: “Great Americans get statues, even if they had some warts and were imperfect people. This might be the most important lesson for us all: even great men – and we mere mortals even more so – have warts that cannot be overlooked, but can be forgiven.’

We are humans, not animals. As Chesterton says, “show me the ants that will build a statue of some great ant in the anthill.” Therefore, let us honor our important ancestors. Let us appreciate them for their good deeds and overlook the infamous ones. So even Archbishop Karel of Lichtenstein-Castelcorn deserves a statue in Kroměříž, because he restored our city from the ruins, gave it beauty and art and gardens, so even the Finnish lady doesn’t have to have a completely bad conscience about visiting Kroměříž today…

The article is in Czech

Tags: Hogwarts greats Historical Puritanism Moravia

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