AN imaginary time-lapse would show a young boy and girl happily growing up in 17th century Prague, falling in love against the majestic backdrop of the Charles Bridge and the Castle on the hill.
However, true to the vagaries of life, the time-lapse will transition into a darker more sombre section: the gathering gloom of war; a young knight preparing to serve his country; tearful farewells from his betrothed…
And then a frenzy of emotionally-charged violence as the young knight returns from war, convinced by malicious rumours of infidelity, casting away his beloved and retreating in a hasty marriage to revenge the perceived treachery…
The time-lapse segues into a slow, painful rhythm of rejection, a young woman’s heart irrevocably shattered, death by drowning in the Vltava a tragic but not unexpected result. In a final act of rage she curses the iron heart of her knight before submitting to the river.
Her father, pining for his once bubbly daughter, seeking refuge from the pain, plummeting to his death from a tall tower.
The time-lapse speeds up again: the knight, wracked by guilt; his wife, drowning her troubles in a bottle; anger; recriminations; violence!
And then, the terrible truth! His beloved had faithfully waited for his return. She had never been unfaithful!
A cataclysmic explosion of violence and colour! The knight’s hands closing around the throat of his inebriated wife; the rope constricting and then cutting of the oxygen to his broken mind; a body swaying in the cellar.
The time-lapse runs out: the colourless Iron Knight, frozen into an iron statue upon his death, staring out from Mariánské Square as around him summer shrinks from autumn, spring thaws freezing winter in a carousel of changing seasons… A week, month, year, decade, 100 years, 200, 300, 400.
Prague is a city rich in art, history and culture. It is also a city of ghosts. The tales of individuals who walked the cobbled streets, argued about warring religions, shared victuals in raucous taverns and… created history!
They lived lives that refused to die, still echoing loudly in the present, a reminder that we too live lives that may echo into the future. The victories, the tragedies, the stories of our lives featuring boldly in the cities of our children’s children.
History, not as a dead subject, but another link in a living chain. And who is to say the Iron Knight will not yet achieve redemption? Every 100 years, his ghost wanders the streets of Prague, seeking a virgin to walk with him for an hour – and release him from the bonds of his curse.