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Castle and Cathedral in Modern Prague

Longing for the Sacred in a Skeptical Age 

Bruce R. Berglund is Professor of History, Calvin College, Michigan, USA

Six million people visit Prague Castle each year. Here is the story of how this ancient citadel was transformed after World War I from a neglected, run-down relic into the seat of power for independent Czechoslovakia—and the symbolic center of democratic postwar Europe.

The restoration of Prague Castle was a collaboration of three remarkable figures in twentieth-century east central Europe: Tomáš Masaryk, the philosopher who became Czechoslovakia’s first president; his daughter Alice, a social worker trained in the settlement houses of Chicago who was founding director of the Czechoslovak Red Cross and her father’s trusted confidante; and the architect, Jože Plečnik of Slovenia, who integrated reverence for Classical architecture into distinctly modern designs. Their shared vision saw the Castle not simply as a government building or historic landmark but as the sacred center of the new republic, even the new Europe—a place that would embody a different kind of democratic politics, rooted in the spiritual and the moral.

With a biographer’s attention to detail, historian Bruce Berglund presents lively and intimate portraits of these three figures. At the same time, he also places them in the context of politics and culture in interwar Prague and the broader history of religion and secularization in modern Europe. Gracefully written and grounded in a wide array of sources, Castle and Cathedral in Modern Prague is an original and accessible study of how people at the center of Europe, in the early decades of the twentieth century, struggled with questions of morality, faith, loyalty, and skepticism.

388 pages, 2017

978-963-386-157-8 cloth $60.00 / €52.00 / £40.00

Part One Three Portraits of the Modern Believer
Chapter One The Philosopher in Search of Truth
Imagining a New Religion
The Spiritual Pastor
Care for the Soul of the Nation
“She Formed Me”

Chapter Two The Architect Creating for the Ages
Finding a Path in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna
Caught between Prague, Vienna, and Ljubljana
The Professor as Spiritual Mentor
Cubists and Monument Builders

Chapter Three The Social Worker Longing to Serve
Discovering Faith and Vocation
Looking to America
From Jan Hus to Clean Underwear
Building Her House on the Rocks

Part Two Czechoslovakia under the Perspective of Eternity

Chapter Four The House of Masaryk and the Moral Republic
The Philosopher as President
The House of Masaryk and Managed Democracy
The President’s Conscience
A Fortress of the Mighty God

Chapter Five The Moral Republic and Its Discontents
Dissonant Voices in the Castle
Catholic Intellectuals and the “Culture War”
Masaryk’s Message Is Our Message
Mysterious Stones at the Castle

Chapter Six Building Cathedrals in Modern Prague
Religious Institutions and Masaryk’s Civil Religion
Faith, Truth, and the Culture of the Republic
The Blasphemies of Jaroslav Durych
A Cathedral for the Modern Nation

Chapter Seven The War of the Absolute
Convictions of the President-Liberator
Reigniting the Culture War
T. G. Masaryk—Mortal and Immortal