The Golden Chapel
Our so-called First Scene or Golden Chapel was unique in comparison to the other Bohemian and Moravian theatres. The National Theatre played an important role in the Czech national history and it is one of the Czech national symbols. It became a symbol for the existence of a modern European nation, which, as well as in other European countries, began to form in the middle of the 19th century.
Czech revivalists came up with the idea of establishing a truly Czech theatre in 1844. After the Czech Assembly approved the construction of the theatre, the financial funds came into question and the result was a public collection. Money flowed from all social strata and the biggest financial benefits were the donations from the eminent nobles such as, the Emperor and the imperial family, the Provincial Committee of the Kingdom of Bohemia and other associations. The foundation stone of the National Theatre was officially laid on 16 May 1868. The stones for the construction came from all over Czech and almost 150 000 people came to the ceremony. The Neo-Renaissance appearance of the theatre was designed by the architect, Josef Zítek, who was also creator of the Rudolfinum building.
The theatre was nearly completed and it was temporarily opened during the visit of the Crown Prince Rudolf in Prague on 11th of June 1881. The ceremonial premiere was the Smetana's Libuše. There were another eleven performances and then the theatre was closed again for the finishing works. On August 12, 1881, a fire broke out and it severely damaged the theatre. However, this national tragedy sparked a wave of solidarity and it is said that nearly half of the population of Prague donated money again. Over a million golden pennies were collected in two months. The final stage was finished by the architect, Josef Schultz, the creator of the National Museum. The theatre was reopened on 18th November, 1883, again by Smetana’s Libuše.
The theatre is 26 meters high and it has great acoustics. The theatre truly demonstrates the brilliance of the decorations that were done by the most significant Czech artists of the time. The statues were made by Bohuslav Schnirch a Josef Václav Myslbek, the paintings were done by Mikoláš Aleš, Václav Brožík or František Ženíšek. The tire was painted by Vojtěch Hynais. Above the stage, there is a symbolic inscription, “Národ sobě” (The Nation for itself).