|Prague, Czech Republic
Friday, September 12, 2014, will now be a celebrated date not only for the Czech Province but for the Order...
Friday, September 12, 2014, will now be a celebrated date not only for the Czech Province but for the Order. In an official act in the National Gallery, in the presence of the Minister of Culture and the director of the National Gallery of Art, a contract was signed regarding the return of the two Rubens paintings (St. Augustine and the Martyrdom of St. Thomas) in the Church of St. Thomas from the Czech state to the province of Bohemia. The paintings return to the Augustinians as part of the process by which the State is returning part of the property confiscated during the communist period. The paintings remain in the National Gallery after signing a lending agreement for a period of 15 years.
The Martyrdom of St. Thomas and the scene of St. Augustine with the child at the beach, were painted by Rubens around 1635. He was commissioned by the first provincial of the Czech Province, Juan Bautista Cristelius who, after the Province became independent from Baveria (1604) asked that the works of the renowned author decorate the main altar of the conventual church of St. Thomas, the mother house of the Province.
In 1896, the Czech State, representing the National Gallery of Art asked that the paintings be loaned for an international exposition in Prague. The agreement included that the National Gallery would make two copies for the Church. The originals were lent for a period of 25 years, and then renewed for another 25 years. In this time, the communist party arrived in government and confiscated all church property and “gave themselves” the paintings. After the fall of the wall, the Czech province insistently and through judicial processes tried to recover ownership of the paintings, without success. At the end of 2012, a law was signed that the State is compelled to return property that the Church can demonstrate was part of her property in 1948. The process, despite being very clear in our case, lasted a year and a half. After 118 years, the paintings, and above all, the ownership of the paintings, returned to the province of Bohemia.
P. Juan Provecho, OSA