St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague

The GCI and the Office of the President of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic announced in October that they will collaborate on the conservation of the 14th-century Last Judgment mosaic of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

The mosaic is considered one of the country's most important cultural treasures. Covering 904 square feet (84 square meters) of the south facade of St. Vitus, the mosaic suffers from surface corrosion that has created a whitish, opaque layer, obscuring the images of Christ, surrounded by angels and saints, presiding over visions of heaven and hell.

Begun in 1344 and not completed until 1929, the St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle is one of only two Gothic buildings in the world have a very large surface area covered with mosaics (the other is Orvieto Cathedral in Italy). The Last Judgment was commissioned by Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, who made Prague his capital from 1346 to 1378. Efforts to conserve the mosaic date as far back as 1470. Major restoration attempts were begun in 1619, 1889, 1956, and every several years thereafter, with limited success. Protective coatings last only a few years before wearing off, causing the mosaic to disappear again under a chalky, gray-white layer of corrosion. The last time the mosaic was cleaned was in 1980.

The project to conserve the St. Vitus mosaic is expected to take about four years. After evaluating existing documentation and reports, and conducting a scientific study of the causes of deterioration and of the proposed conservation treatments, the project team, including members of the GCI and the Office of the President, will recommend a conservation plan and maintenance program. Conservation treatment will be carried out by Czech conservators, with the advice of outside consultants as needed. On-site training will comprise an integral part of the project.