The miraculous spring on the pilgrimage site Křemešník near Pelhřimov was believed to be helpful against epidemics. It is likely to be popular again. The place is situated about 120 km (74.5 miles) away from Prague, in Southern Bohemia. In the last issue of Opera historica 2020/2 Markéta Skořepová tells the incredible story of the belief in its healing power. In her article Cholera and baroque miracles (OH 2020/2, pp. 224-245). She explores the way printed story songs were used to publicize the site during the Cholera of 1832.

At present, there are several springs, so you need to know that only the Golden Spring has the healing power. The water appears here just once a year. Its season starts in the spring and the water disappears in the summer, usually after Trinity Sunday. On the top of that, its coming is heralded by a mysterious thunder from inside the hill. (p.231) Our blog and facebook can show you some real pics of the place.

The healing power of the Golden Spring was discovered during the Thirty Years War when the water healed a soldier who had an injured leg. The present-day baroque church of the Holy Trinity there was built in 1754, but a stone-wall chapel had existed there from 1652. The miracles were recorded in a Liber memorabilium from 1763 onwards and paradoxically show a spike during the Enlightenment period of 1763-1773. The pilgrimages were extremely popular until 1779. During this period, the crowds here counted 9 to 12,000 visitors. During the reign of Joseph II the numbers of visitors fell, but then the pilgrims suddenly returned in large numbers during the Cholera of 1832. In that year the water appeared quite early and it was flowing longer than usual, until September 1832. The news about the miracle spread quickly and visitors from distant regions began to pour into Křemešník. (p. 233) A business-friendly priest father Matěj Křepelka even began to tap the water into bottles which he was exporting to such distant places as Galicia and the port of Terst. In the late 19th century, the place began to be visited by tourists, mainly from German language islands around Jihlava / Iglau and Jindřichův Hradec / Neuhaus.

The Story Songs – Cantastoria 

The fame of such baroque pilgrimage sites was diffused by cantastorias (kramářské písně). However, Markéta Skořepová argues that there are no prints with such songs from the time before 1800 (p. 233-235). She draws on her new book about folk story songs from the region of Pelhřimov. She found several weird prints in the collections of the Museum of Pelhřimov, most of them related to the cholera year. The oldest of these songs was written by a certain patriot called Jan August Vaněk in 1819, and – believe it or not – it was based on the melody of the Austrian anthem. The lyrics celebrated the Holy Trinity. There are further three songs printed during the cholera year and several undated ones that were probably also written in that year. One of them tells the story of a gentleman who had a dream that he would be cured of ‘plague’, if he rushed to Křemešník immediately. The last lines of the song then tell something about the media – ‘It was not in the newspapers / that that gentleman recovered / it was only in the mouths / and so the news spread / and all Christians are rushing in here.’

Later history of the site confirmed the belief that the water appears always before a catastrophe comes – in 1866 before the Austro-Prussian war, and also in 1914 before the First World War. Later texts about the site admire also the beauty of nature and focus on secular tourists. The fame of the miraculous spring was renewed even before the last pandemic of COVID-19. The fact that the Pelhřimov region was one of the last ones clean of coronavirus in March 2020 induced local people to joke about the miraculous power of the Golden Spring.

Today, the site is used also as a ski-areal, there is a hotel and several springs scattered quite far from each other in the forest. The main institution here is, however, the church of the Holy Trinity which displays inside also objects commemorating the past epidemics.

The last issue of Opera bohemica 2020/2 was dedicated to the epidemics, it is available here, it also has a specialized bibliography. Photo Markéta Skořepová.

Ivo Cerman