July 2016

The family that brought Mozart to Prague tried to do the same with Mesmer, but failed

Even though Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was only in Prague a handful of times, it is impossible to avoid his likeness throughout Prague’s historical center. The city prides itself on the musical connection. The operas performed in Prague are well-known, but less discussed is that both Mozart and Count Franz Joseph Thun und Hohenstein — of the same Thun family that in 1787 hosted Mozart at what is now the British Embassy in Malá Strana — had ties to Franz Anton Mesmer, the man who lends his name to Mesmerism and the concept of animal magnetism, which after a fashion became modern-day hypnosis.

There is, however, a reason you don’t see Mesmer’s face plastered all over downtown Prague. The idea of Mesmerism did not take root in the city, despite the best efforts of the Count, who tried to entice Mesmer to visit the Golden City and set up shop there.

mozart card

Petting the bronze dog on Charles Bridge is a more recent tradition than many people think.

Practically every tourist who crosses Charles Bridge in Prague touches one of three places on the base of the statue of St John Nepomuk, or a five-starred double cross a little further down embedded in the bridge’s stone railing.

Legend has it St John (Jan Nepomucký) was thrown off the bridge by King Wenceslas IV for refusing to divulge the secrets of the queen’s confession. The dispute may also have involved the church’s right to appoint bishops without state approval.

dog card

There has always been a good deal of confusion about the legend. Two Bohemian clerics named Jan may have gotten their life stories hopelessly entangled. And the date of his death is either 1383 or 1393. The change in date would also change which queen was being protected. Queen Johanna of Bavaria was alive on the former date, and Queen Sofia of Bavaria on the latter.