July 15, 2009

The Faust House.

This past weekend, partially due to the somewhat bad weather, I finally found the time to sort through my vacation pictures. Even though today everyone uses digital images and saves or presents their vacation shots on DVDs or by playing those in computer presentations, I still make prints out of my favorite photographs. I do still buy and use photo albums, as I find nothing can really replace the feeling one gets from looking at a print.

Making a short jump back to the days I spend in Prague recently, some of the pictures depict a house that is most likely the most famous one in the whole city. It is so called "Faust House", or in Czech "Faustův Dům".

According to the city legends, doctor Faust or Faustus once lived here. He made a pact with the Devil in exchange for knowledge and disappeared without a trace. All that was left was a big hole in the roof of the house library.
The house stood empty for a long time, decaying, considered haunted, until a poor student decided to move in, when he found himself cold, hungry and without a shelter. "The house" treated the student well and every day he found a silver coin on the table. His fear of the house library room slowly diminished. He covered the hole in the roof and started to read all the books, which were filled with mystical text and magical spells. Very soon he felt at ease and brave enough to invite over friends and live a life where the silver coin was not enough anymore. The greed took over the student, upon which he turned to black magic spells described in the books and then one day, he too vanished without a trace. All he left behind was a big, blackened hole in the roof of the library, just like Faust did before him.

I remember reading this story in my favorite book of Prague tales as a child. The house has most likely never had doctor Faust as an occupant (or did it?), but it remains shrouded in mystery due to the variety of its eccentric inhabitants.

In the 14th century this baroque mansion was owned by Prince Vaclav of Opava, who was the first to give rise to the association of the Faustian legend due to his avid interest in alchemy.
Among other odd occupants of the Faust house was the famous alchemists Edward Kelley, Court Alchemist to Rudolph II, who was believed to use the philosopher's stone in his pursuit to turn common metal into gold.
Ferdinand Antonin Mladota of Solopysk lived in the Faust house in the 18th century. His experiments sometimes led to big explosions, which made holes in the roof and scared everyone in the neighborhood. His son was believed to be a superb engineer and he was said to entertain his guests with gadgets installed all over the house, such as a door which would open by itself, a flying staircase and electric shocks administered upon touching a door handle.
Probably the most eccentric of them all was Karl Jaenig who lived there in the 19th century. He painted the walls with funeral texts, had a functional gallows at home and slept in a wooden coffin.

Today the Faust House is unfortunately not opened to the public and is solely used by the Faculty of Medicine at Charles University, housing among other things a pharmacy.

On our latest visit to Prague I had my picture taken in front of this beautiful building, which I remember passing as a child on walks taken with my grandfather, while he would tell me the story of doctor Faustus. Although it looks much smaller and less menacing than I recall, standing in front of it still makes all the legends I remember come alive.


Reading Tea Leaves said...

Such an interesting post, Protege. What an amazing building, with such history - you certainly brought Dr Faust and the other occupants alive.
I hope to go to Prague one day - it has so much history and culture.
I agree about photographs - I still make prints of favourite holidays etc and very often have them enlarged, and place them framed, gallery-style on my walls.

steviewren said...

What a deliciously juicy history! I can see why all the legends grew up around the house. A long list of characters have lived there. Imagine living in a house that looks like that.

I'm like you too. I print out pictures because I want a tangible memory of the event....also I'm afraid my computer will crash and I'll lose everything.

Gal Friday said...

Too bad this Faust house isn't open to the public(maybe one day soon?). Here in the U.S., it would probably be opened as a bed and breakfast with it's own tacky giftshop..ha..ha!

I used to be much better about printing out my photos and at least keeping them in order in boxes(until the day I could get them all into albumes) but have become lazy and just keeping them on my computer. And, I did lose many when our PC crashed last month.
Thanks for the great reading this morning--always learn something new when I visit here, Zuzana. :-)

Hilary said...

Beautiful post, Z. I love how you weave your personal history of this building with it's own. Darn that Faust and others who barouque its roof. ;)

United Studies said...

How interesting! I had never heard this story before.

And I must say, not only are you an attractive woman, but you have great fashion sense!

Julie Hibbard said...

I take hundreds of pictures and print about about 1/10th of them for albums and to send friends and relatives and to FRAME!
We are lucky to have both technologies now...
I am so happy that we no longer have to 'wait to see if pictures turned out' or to find out that I closed my eyes in the photo.
Prints are nice...
Love Prague too. Everything about it!

Melanie Gillispie said...

This was an great post! How cool is it that all those interesting and odd people lived there? I wonder if it was coincidence or if they sought it out because of the history?

Claus said...

the philosopher's stone
lying staircase
Could JK Rowling have known about this house? Many coincidences with the first Harry Potter installment! Loved the story behind this house, and how they have survived all these decades.

Even though I take hundreds of pictures and burn them into a "yearly" CD, I do print the ones that best represent that particular year and make an album. Like you, I find there is nothing better than to take out an album and look at memories. There's May and June to print for me...your entry has inspire me to classify which to print :-)

Diane said...

You know that friend you have who makes you feel stupid because she's so smart? Well, YOU probably don't know that friend. 'Cause you totally ARE that friend. Mel would be, but she's a pretty big dork, and, well, there are times when I actually feel like the smart friend around her (but don't tell her I said that). Anyway, you are my smart friend, Z :) XOOX

Betsy Brock said...

Very interesting! The architecture is beautiful! Can't believe it's a pharmacy now...what a beautiful place to buy your medicines! Lovely you in that last photo, too! :)

Hazel Designs said...

Oh WOW. I got chills reading your post and looking at that picture. I love it! I remember I was so into Marlowe's Dr. Faustus when we read it for school. This picture brought it alive for me.

Maria said...

Fascinating post. I loved it! That's a place I'd very much like to visit one day!!!

Zuzana said...

glad you liked the story about the house of Faust.;))
I think you would love Prague, it is an amazing city - I have a few posts devoted to it under "Prague" as a label, in case you would be interested.;))
Thank you for your lovely comment.;)xo

yes, I love stories such as these too, as they are so intriguing and one can not help but to believe that any legend has some true to it.;)) Always happy when you stop by.;)) xo

I think it is exactly the problem; we do not have the time anymore. It used to be two at the most three rolls of film and now we have hundreds and hundreds of pictures that need to be sorted through.;))
I am so happy you enjoyed this post, your comments always make my day.;)xo

glad you like the way I write.;))
And I love the way you play with words!;))
Thank you so much for always taking the time to stop by.;) xo

thank you so much, you are way to kind and right back at you.;))
Hope one day you can make it to Prague and visit this legendary house.:) xo

I could have written that as that is EXACTLY what I do, print a portion, send around and frame.;)) And I so agree about the fact that we can choose what to print. Although in some way, there was a magic about waiting for these unknown prints, that would bring back the experiences all over again.;))
Thank you for your always great comments.;) xo

I think you have point, that is probably why they lived there. They liked the history, as they were so eccentric themselves.;))
Glad you liked the post.;)) xo

what a fun point you bring up!;)) Perhaps she did take some inspiration from the Prague legends.;)) I often think that Tolkien dis use some of the slavic mythology when he wrote "The Lord Of The Rings".
I, like you, too sit with my photo albums in the winter and look through old photographs of years gone by; this one simply can not do with a computer.;))
Thank you for your always kind words.;) xo

hehehe, this made me laugh and I am still laughing!:)) As I said before, being with you and Mel in a room for an evening must be an experience out of this world, I would laugh for hours. You guys are just my kind of people.;))
And psst: Don't tell anyone, but I am so NOT smart!;))
Always love when you stop by my dear friend.;) xo

so fun you comment on the pharmacy fact as the Irishman actually suggested that I go in and buy something, anything, just to claim I bought it in the Faust house.;))
Thank you so much for your kind compliment.;) xo

so glad you enjoyed this post!;)) Yes, Faust has been the main character in many stories, books and plays.;))
Always glad when you stop by.;) xo

I hope you get a chance to visit Prague, it is a city like n other.;))
Thank you so much for your kind comment.;) xo

sallymandy said...

Thank you for this fascinating post and the lovely picture of you! I loved reading about the history of this house. As always, I'm just struck by how new our "history" is in the U.S. To walk up and stand by a house occupied in the 14th century!

Recently there was a youth choir from Prague visiting an International Choral Festival in my town. They were breathtaking. The "Little Bell of Prague."

Zuzana said...

you leave the best comments. Yes, I love that Europe has "old" history.;))
Glad you enjoyed the choir.;))

Sumandebray said...

It is a very interesting post. I like to listen to such stories associated with old structures. It opens up the window for imagination.
Infact the earlier one about bats too was very interesting.
You know we too love to have selected digital photographs printed and put on the albums.There is no way watching it over the screen could replace the good old albums.

Zuzana said...

thank you for your lovely comment. I am to fascinated by the mysterious and by stories from times gone by. I often thing the past can tell us about our future.
Glad you enjoyed the "Bat" post as well.:)

MsTypo said...

Love the story behind the building. The fact that actual alchemists lived there just adds to teh mystique. Very cool!