Boys with no face

When you are driving down the street from Anděl to Klamovka, admire the long wall on the left side, above which trees covered with ivy grow. Through the barred openings, a glimpse into another world, the now former Lesser Town cemetery, emerges. It was established far beyond the Lesser Town walls in 1680, when a great plague epidemic raged in the cities of Prague. The epidemic has claimed 12,000 lives, which was about a third of Prague’s population. After the prohibition of burials in churches within the city, since 1786 the cemetery became the main burial mound in the Lesser Town and Hradčany. A number of rich burghers, major artists, painters, sculptors and musicians of the so called Mozart’s generation have found their last resting place here. Also the less well-known personalities of the emerging industrial era are buried here. Eventually, it became fatal. When the housing development of Košíře and Smíchov reached the cemetery wall, further burials have been prohibited there since 1884. However, less than a hundred years of its existence has left a remarkable legacy to the Lesser Town cemetery.

The Lesser Town Cemetry

When you go through the cemetery gate, the sounds of the city go silent and the everyday reality is replaced by eternity. An extraordinary gallery is hiddenunder the centuries-old lindens and ashes, like under an umbrella. Dozens of headstones and metal crosses rise from the grassy carpet and fight endlessly with ivy, which climbs it blatantly on its way for light. The headstones are usually richly decorated with work of the renowned sculptors. The figures of the dead, the allegorical figures of mourners, doves, Angels of death, and Christ the Saviour, they all hold the eternal guard under the supervision of Leopold Thun-Hohenstein. The monumental cast-iron headstone of the last Prince and Bishop of Passau cannot remain unnoticed. On the border of life and death, he kneels and prays over an open bookon a high pedestal. What it says no one knows, but the old Prague legend has it that whoever takes a look into the book, they see the date of their death.

The Nameless Tomb

One headstone, or rather the tomb, is distinguished from the others with its dissimilarity. In front of the cemetery walls, the massive plain prism rises. Its top side with the lid gently rises to the stone stele and it is completed by triangular Gable. There is no inscription. A marble stone changed due to time, or rather the vandals. At the head of a nameless tomb there is only a small square floor tile with portraits of two boys. For the considerable damage, the faces remain unrecognisable. Yet this piece of pottery is the track leading to the disclosure of their identity. The tomb belonged to a Prague family of stove fitters, the Sommerschuhs. In 1859, son of the founder of the family workshop Wenzel (Václav) and ten years later, his wife Terezie found their last resting place here. Their son Jan Václav (1825-1892) had the tomb built. He moved the thriving workshop from the Lesser Town square to the now non-existent house on the Mariánské Square. The basis of his business success was swift adaptation to new heating fuel and coal in the aristocratic palaces and burgher homes, which required a new type of furnace. Ceramic stoves became the flagship of the Sommerschuh Prague plant. Its specific pyramidal shape served as a model for the family tomb. At the time of the upcoming historicism, such an inspiration was considered very unique and it would probably be even today. Jan Václav Sommerschuch had five children. The sons Guido and Richard died at the age of 22 and 21 years and these are the boys with no face, the display on the ceramic tile at the head of the tomb of their grandfather, next to whom they were buried. It is not clear who else from the Sommerschuh family was buried here. Written sources diverge in this regard and in addition they provide names Julie, Václav, Ignác and František. Jan Václav himself passed away in 1892. He was buried in the Olšany cemetery, because further burials were by that time already six years prohibited in the Lesser Town cemetery.

Ceramic wall and floor tiles

Emil Sommerschuh (1866-1920) became the successor of the family tradition. He united with his brother-in-law Milan Kasalovský and in 1898 he moved the factory from Prague to Rakovník. Here the most famous chapter of its existence began. Especially in 1907 when Johann II, Prince of Liechtenstein, who owned the brickworks in Poštorná, Břeclav. This has transformed into a joint-stock company called ‘Rakovnické a poštorenské keramické závody’, in which Emil Sommerschuh was the General Director until his death in 1920. The product range of the factory was extended in its lifetime to the mosaic images and especially ceramic wall and floor tiles. It can be found on hundreds of blocks of flats and family houses, but also on a number of significant buildings in the Czech Republic and abroad. We shall provide the Prague ones such as the Municipal House, Hotel Imperial in the Na PoříčíStreet, the old Sewage Plant in Bubeneč, General Pensions Institution in Žižkov or The Electrical Companies of the Capital City of Prague at Vltavská metro station. RAKO Company, owned since 2002 by the Austrian family-owned company LASSELSBERGER, maintains the tradition of the famous plant today. The Sommerschuh family is, however, somewhat forgotten. There is no better evidence than the nameless tomb in the Lesser Town cemetery.

SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI! (Thus passes the glory of the world!).

(published 13. 3. 2017 on Blesk.cz)