The Thirteenth Chamber of the Broumov Cloister
The Benedictine cloister dominates Broumov – it is so large that even the local monks did not know how many rooms it had. A long time ago, they used to hide the Codex gigas there from the Hussites, and not long ago they found that the cloister had not yet uncovered all of its secrets.
The surrounding countryside was deserted and uninhabited at the beginning of the 13th century. In 1213, Abbot Kuno of Břevnov received it from King Přemysl Otakar I for the Benedictine Order and the countryside was slowly inhabited with first monks and settlers. However, the most famous period started with Abbot Otmar Zink (1700–1738). The cloister was also successful economically and owned extensive land in its surroundings. Otmar Zinke wanted to express the uniqueness of the Břevnov-Broumov Abbey, the oldest one Bohemia, through his construction activity and invited the prominent European architects, Christopher Dientzenhofer and his son Kilian Ignaz, to completely reconstruct the cloister. The cloister obtained its monumentality and the interior of the Church of St. Adalbert is breath-taking.
In 1420, the Hussites burned the Benedictine cloister in Břevnov, today a Prague quarter, down. Its inhabitants and valuables were moved to Broumov, including the medieval “eighth wonder of the world” – the largest manuscript in the world, called the Codex gigas, also known as the Devil’s Bible (according to the half-metre high illustration of the devil inside the book). The manuscript was written by the Benedictines in the 13th century, it is almost a metre long and weighs 75 kg. It contains the then understood knowledge of the world – the Old and New Testament, historical documents (also the Chronicles of the Czechs by Cosmas of Prague), various medical articles and also protective spells. Such a huge and special book has always provoked people’s fantasy. The legend says that a monk had to write it as an atonement for his sins and a devil helped him finish it. Experts believe that the work was created over at least during twenty years by a single person, who was incredibly skilful. Another mystery is that several pages were cut out of the Bible in the Middle Ages.
“What was on the parchment foil and who cut it out? This was not a book in a public library! Only very few people could actually browse through the Devil’s Bible. The Benedictines considered it the eighth wonder of the world. They had to have a good reason to damage the book in such a way.”
Unfortunately, the Codex gigas is no longer in Broumov. In 1594, Emperor Rudolf II transferred it to his Prague collections and in 1648 it was taken to Sweden as a war booty from the Thirty Years’ War. President Havel strived to get the Bible back to Bohemia but he did not succeed.
Shroud of Turin
You can see this artefact that was recently discovered during a tour there. It is 1999. Above the St. Cross Chapel in the cloister Church of St. Adalbert, more than twelve metres high, there is a golden stucco wreath with the inscription Sancta Sindon, which is terminus technicus for the famous Shroud of Turin, in which Jesus Christ was supposedly wrapped after his death. An old box is sticking out from behind the wreath and no-one knows anything about it. At that time, twenty-year-old Přemysl Sochor is serving at the Broumov cloister during his alternative service, and he cannot stop thinking about the inscription Sancta Sindon and decides to investigate it. Only the old vicar, Norbert Josef Zeman, accompanies him.
In 1999, a copy of the Shroud of Turin is found in the cloister Church of St. Adalbert above the St. Cross Chapel.
The unique copy of the Shroud of Turin in the Broumov cloister comes from 1651.
“We were curious about what was there. We guessed it could be something related to the Shroud of Turin, such as a piece of thread from the original. We climbed over the fencing, the box was hanging on a simple hooked nail, so it was easy to pull out. It was covered by a layer of dust. We opened it – and found a folded cloth inside. (…) The light from the windows fell directly on the shroud and showed the outline of a person. Inside, there was authentication sewn in (accompanying document) and the vicar, who know Latin well, breathed out that it was a copy of the Shroud of Turin. We knew we found something unique.”
Today, Přemysl Sochor is the manager of the Broumov cloister and his famous discovery can be seen during a tour. The cloister has become a new cultural centre, offering a diverse programme where you can see the historical sites on one of the many guided tours. And if you find the local atmosphere so enchanting that you will not be able to leave, you can spend a night in one of the monk cells.