cross-in-woods

Prague’s Romeo and Juliet

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Rusted Cross is reminder of two lovers who came to a tragic end

People who have gone hiking or cycling at the edge of Prague may have encountered a remnant of the city’s own Romeo and Juliet, a star-crossed couple whose monument now stands alone surrounded by trees and wilderness.

In the middle of the Ctěnice Woods is a rusted metal cross on a stone plinth. The cross stands mute, but a recent sign nearby hints at the tragic tale.

Local legend adds a bit more to the rather sketchy account on the sign.

A gamekeeper had a cottage between Ctěnice and Vinoř, then rural areas but since 1974 part of Prague. The gamekeeper’s son fell in love with the daughter of a famous person at the nearby Ctěnice chateau.

The gamekeeper forbade the romance once he found out about it. He saw the only scandal ahead because the families were from different social classes. The father wanted his son to carry on in his footsteps, and a scandal would almost certainly prevent that and most likely make them both homeless exiles from the area.

Distraught, the couple met in the woods among some oaks called Miranovy Duby, where the young man shot his lover and then himself.

Since the young man’s death was a suicide, he could not be buried in consecrated ground, according to religious customs of the time. The young woman was apparently innocent of suicide according to the sketchy account, but that seemed not to matter. Both were buried on the spot where they were found, making it perhaps the smallest cemetery in Prague.

The events took place in the 19th century, maybe in 1812, according to the recently written sign but later according to other accounts. Their names are not recorded.

Prague’s Romeo and Juliet

The cross was put up by the girl’s parents, who remained distraught over the whole affair.

An account of the story was apparently in a German-language book that at one time was in the Ctěnice chateau but has now allegedly been misplaced. Another mention of the tale is allegedly in the Vinoř Chronicle.

The grove itself also has a tragic story. The trees were planted in 1773 by Josef Černý, also called Josef Miran, a respectable local official who became involved in the peasant uprising of 1775. He was hanged later that year in Prague’s Karlín neighborhood in front of Invalidovna. One of the trees in the grove has a plaque with his story as well.

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